Guest post by Christen Gause, Pro-Link GLOBAL Inc. business immigration manager and organizer of Kicks N Klothes 4 Kids, a valued Partner for Promise. She is located in Sarasota.
I have a friend that is a family support worker for the Safe Children Coalition and also a Guardian ad Litem. When we get together she tells me of some of the heart-breaking stories of foster children who have no shoes, socks or the basic items that so many of us take for granted. I have three children that are aged 11, 9 and 6 and I can’t fathom for one second that my children not have the most basic of items, especially items that are needed to go to school.
As time passed I would think of these children. I would think of all that my children have. There are very few items for which my children want because they have been blessed with not only hard working parents but a large extended family that enjoys spoiling them as well. I decided that I wanted to do more to help these children and get them the items they needed to attend school with shoes being the most basic item.
It began as an idea to put together a clothing and shoe collection. I figured I would just ask my friends to clean out their kids’ closets, but has turned out to be so much more. As I began to express my idea to others at my company, Pro-Link GLOBAL Inc., we came up with a game plan organize the effort. Promotions were inexpensive, but effective – fliers designed the Pro-Link team, school contacts, Facebook posts and help from the Safe Children Coalition.
We had two collection points at local parks, but you never know when or where someone will give. I had just such an experience when I stopped by a local sporting goods store in Sarasota to purchase my daughter a gift for her birthday. I asked the sales clerk, which happened to be the owner, to post my flier about the clothing drive in his store. Not only did he post my flier, but he donated EVERY ITEM on his clearance rack, which amounted to four boxes of brand new clothes. Day one of the Kicks N Klothes 4 Kids drive and my car was already stuffed full of items!
Promotions continued and I filled out the online form for DCF’s Partners for Promise effort, which brings businesses together to help their communities. DCF staff called me and helped me with additional promotion resources, including free advertisements in local newspapers, and talked to local auto retailer Sunset Chevy, who agreed to be the official collection point in Sarasota. DCF also connected me with child welfare case managers who could let me know specific needs of individual families. Working with the case managers allowed me to not only meet the families’ needs, but also made donors feel good because they knew they were meeting the specific need of a child.
The Friday before our collection day I rented a 10-foot box truck – we received enough donations to completely fill up the truck! We have several boxes of new clothes, at least 100 new pairs of shoes and piles and piles of gently used items included some very nice duffle bags. One very generous GAL even donated $400 in new clothes and 25 new pairs of shoes. Most donors asked if we were going to do a drive again because they loved the idea of donating to foster kids but had no idea how to go about it. The community was very receptive and eager to help. I am glad that we were able to facilitate a way everyone to connect and help.
It brings a lot of joy to my heart to be able to obtain these items for these children. These children wear the weight of the world on their shoulders and have to grow up and mature faster than most. They are not able to be as carefree and oblivious as my children, and that saddens me. A child should never be embarrassed to go to school because their shoes have holes or they have no socks to wear. My hope is that by putting a new pair of Nikes on a child’s feet that we give them hope that there are people that care, give them pride to wear those new shoes and give them a little self confidence.
To find out how you can become a Partner for Promise to help your community, visit www.flpartnersforpromise.com.