Hundreds of families descended on the Key Peninsula Civic Center Aug. 25 to 27 to find clothes for the coming school year. At no cost.
Food Backpacks 4 Kids, the local nonprofit known mostly for its programs to feed families on the Key Peninsula and in Gig Harbor, was the force behind the fourth annual clothing giveaway.
For a month before the event people brought lightly used or new clothing for men, women and kids of all ages at 10 donation sites — three on the KP and the others in Gig Harbor. A core group of about 10 volunteers brought the items to a space loaned by Purdy Cost Less Pharmacy where they were sorted, bagged and stored.
“We brought about 2,000 bags to the civic center the Thursday before the giveaway,” said Zaida Woodworth, executive director of FB4K. It took two trips in a box truck loaned to them by Drive Thru Feed. By Friday morning the civic center floor was filled with clothes, socks and shoes all organized by size and gender, and families were lined up outside well before the scheduled noon start time.
Ashley Florek, a mother of five, was shopping by herself on Friday afternoon. “We do a lot of our school clothes shopping here,” she said. “We came last year as well. There is always so much good stuff here. I donated a bunch of stuff this year. I hold onto things the kids grow out of. It’s great to turn in your old clothes and get new ones.”
“It is great,” said Melanie Trampenau, who was with her son. “We get new-to-us clothes. I still wear the clothes I got last year.”
Some families returned each day to check out newly available clothing as space became available on the tables.
Woodworth said the event arose during the Covid pandemic. Evergreen Elementary School held back-to-school events in the past, and she and Michelle Johnson, director of communications for FB4K, had discussed expanding that to serve the whole community.
Then the pandemic hit. “It became clear that no one could donate any of their things,” Woodward said. “Schools might or might not be reopening, everyone needed resources badly, clothing was something people could not afford, and people were throwing clothes into the garbage because there was nowhere to donate it.”
“And so, like we always do, we said we will find a way,” Johnson said. “And we did.”
The first year, 2020, was small by comparison. People dropped clothes off at their Key Center location. “Still, we were swimming in donations,” Johnson said.
“People are grateful for the sustainability, that we are recycling and reusing,” Woodworth said. “The clothes they have are going to other families. We are the conduit for it but really the entire community works to make it happen and benefits from it.”
The civic center donated the space for the event. About 30 volunteers — including educators, community members and FB4K families — helped with the set-up and then worked throughout the event to restock tables. The Red Barn Youth Center supplied clothing racks. Metropolitan Market of Tacoma, Starbucks on Kimball Drive and the FB4K board supplied volunteers with snacks or lunches.
By Sunday at noon, when the event ended, Johnson estimated that about 95% of the donations had been given away. What remained was taken to Evergreen Elementary, Kids Kloset in Port Orchard and Fish Foodbank in Gig Harbor for distribution.
For more information about FB4K, go to foodbackpacks4kids.org.
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