Our society is full of people who are outraged and saddened by the injustice of poverty, especially when it comes to children, and would help if they knew how. Our solution is to provide a simple but emotionally impactful way for the community to dramatically improve the lives of local homeless and impoverished children through the redistribution of unneeded excess.
Note in the Pocket identifies itself as the community. Through individuals, schools, businesses, religious institutions, civic groups, etc., we collect high-quality gently used or new, weather- and school-appropriate clothes and shoes. Once these donated items pass our strict quality control process they are sorted, sized, inventoried and shelved until they are needed by a child identified by one of our school social workers or agency caseworkers.
Families are interviewed by our referral partners to obtain the correct sizes needed for each child in the home. Each child will be given clothes but school-aged children received a full mini-wardrobe that includes new socks and underwear, tennis shoes and enough outfits to provide a seasons' worth of clothes, plus any outerwear appropriate to the season.
These clothes, provided with dignity and love, are then delivered to the school or agency that made the request, often by community volunteers, making it easier on the families to reach them.
Our innovative program allows us to work directly with schools and agencies that are able to identify the students in most need of our services. By educating the community on the types of clothes these students need, we are able to keep a steady and growing supply of donations coming in to help meet the ever increasing requests. In 2014, we received over 24,000 pounds of clothing/shoe donations that allowed us to deliver 48,981 items of donated clothing valued at $342,201 to 2062 children. In 2015, we received over 76,000 pounds of clothing/shoe donations that allowed us to deliver 61,040 items of donated clothing valued at $411,358 to 2577 children. An overwhelming indicator that the community wants to partner with us to provide to local children in need.
The impact of this program is three-fold. Our school social workers and agency workers tell us that these clothes help build a level of trust with these families that is often hard to come by due to a fear that social services will come to take their children. Once trust is built, they are able to introduce a whole spectrum of services available to the families that were unknown to them before. By taking the clothing piece off the shoulders of our referral partners, they are able to better focus on their primary services (education, housing, job assistance, etc.) which helps to reduce mission drift.
Secondly, the community as a whole has proven a wide-spread desire to support this effort in multiple ways. We continue to see an increase in both the volume and quality of clothing/shoe donations as well as dramatically expanded volunteer numbers through both individuals and group events. There are also significantly larger numbers of individual donors, participation in our fundraising events, grant awards and business/corporate financial support each year.
Lastly, and most importantly, is the immediate and long-term impact on the lives of the children we are able to reach. For great potential accompanies these basic clothing needs: self confidence, motivation and self-respect which lead to the desire to pursue a quality education that provides the opportunities that eventually lead to prosperity.