A Hummel Report Investigation
In its first year Clothes To Kids RI has provided a diverse wardrobe to more than 3,000 students in Providence County whose families may be struggling to pay for rent and food, let alone clothes. This week the co-founders of the non-profit organization talk about how boosting a child’s self-esteem with a solid set of clothes can translate to how they do in school.
For more information about Clothes To Kids, click here.
Like clockwork, Eva Marie Mancuso and Marianne Baldwin arrive at a shopping plaza near the Providence/Cranston line at 9:15 on a Tuesday morning. They immediately head for the back of Eva’s SUV - stuffed with donated clothes and books.
Their destination: Clothes to Kids RI - a non-profit they founded in the summer of 2016. Over the past year Clothes to Kids has provided new wardrobes to 3,000 children in Providence County - many from families that have a hard enough time paying the rent or buying food.
Marianne: ``If you have to choose between a roof over your head, food, clothing is coming down there, it’s third, fourth, fifth on the list of important things. And I get that, it should be. You need to eat first. You need a roof over your head.’’
They know from having their own kids that wearing comfortable, good-looking clothes can be play a huge role in a child’s self-esteem - and ultimately how he or she does in school.
Marianne: ``We all have kids and we know: kids can be mean. And if kids aren’t wearing the right thing, or they’re wearing things that are too short, or too small, other kids make fun of them. And they spend their day felling inadequate and not quite the same. When they need all that energy to be learning what they need to learn.’’
Marianne and Eva met in law school more than 30 years ago and have been close friends ever since. They have vacationed together every year - even while Marianne was raising a family in Denver. Marianne moved back to Massachusetts several years ago - when Eva was chairing the Rhode Island Board of Education.
The idea for the non-profit came from conversations they were having about education.
Marianne: ``And in talking with Eva, working with the schools here in Rhode Island, and, hearing about that kids don’t go to school because they don’t have clothes. Or one child in the family is going on a really cold day because there’s one coat.’’
Eva: ``It’s one thing to chair the board of education and dictate policy for the state, it’s another thing to stand there and talk to a Mom who says God Bless You, or thank you for everything you’re doing, I never could have done this.’’
They modeled the Rhode Island program after one Marianne had seen in Denver - and later in Florida: anyone from Providence County that is eligible for free and reduced lunch can make an appointment to shop in this 3,200 square-foot space that is both bright and inviting.
Their motto: Clothe a Child - Change a Life.
A smaller sign on the wall in front reminds volunteers of the need: more than 45,000 kids currently meet the eligibility standard.
Clothes to Kids is laid out like many other clothing stores: Except that each child is assigned to one of the 15 volunteers who come on a rotating basis and help them pick out - then try on clothes - in one of two dressing rooms toward the back of the store. Each child receives five pairs on new underwear, five pairs of new socks, five tops, four bottoms, a pair of shoes and a coat. The girls also receive a dress.