It takes a village to dress a child

What if those with more shared with those without?

Photo of Dallas Bonavita
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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

In the fall of 2005, a young teacher anxiously awaited her students’ arrival on their first day of kindergarten. This brand new teacher started her dream job at a school where the free- or reduced-lunch program hovered around 90 percent. Her students entered the classroom. Most of them were poorly groomed, had threadbare clothes, were sluggish from hunger, and seemed ill-equipped for a day of learning. A plan was formed. The community would dress these kids for educational success.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani)
  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian)
  • Hispanic, Latinx, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian)
  • Middle Eastern or North African (for example: Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Syrian, Moroccan, Algerian)
  • Native American or Alaska Native (for example: Navajo Nation, Blackfeet Tribe, Mayan, Aztec, Native Village of Barrow Inupial Traditional Government, Nome Eskimo Community)
  • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (for example: Native Hawaiian, Samoan, Chamorro, Tongan, Fijian, Marshallese)
  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)
  • Self-identify race, ethnicity, or origin


Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • North Carolina

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • North Carolina

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Note in the Pocket is creating impact in Wake County, NC, which consists of twelve municipalities and is the largest school district in the state and the 16th largest school district in the US. We plan to eventually provide a tool-kit so that our program can be replicated in other areas where students need clothing assistance.

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In Wake County, there are over 52,000 students that qualify for the free- or reduced-priced lunch program. We know that when families are struggling to feed their family they are also struggling to provide enough correctly sized, weather and school appropriate clothing and shoes for their children. Our unique identification and delivery system provides clothes/shoes donated by the community to children suffering at school due to poverty.

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.



Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • No, not explicitly

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Education

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Start-Up (a pilot that has just started operating)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

Although very athletic, a middle school student refuses to participate in gym because he says gym is boring. The reality is that this boy doesn’t want to participate because the tennis shoes he wears are nearly two sizes too small and it is painful to run and be active. His mother told him they could not afford a new pair. The emotional stress this causes triggers emotional and behavioral issues. The school social worker reaches out to the mother and shares that the school has access to a clothing resource that can provide needed clothes to all of her children. The mother is beyond relieved and in less than two weeks, the student is arriving at school dressed for success, feeling comfortable and confident and enjoying exercising in gym.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

In 2015, Note in the Pocket provided 2928 individuals much needed clothing with dignity and love to families with students pre-K through high school, and their siblings, throughout all twelve cities and towns in Wake County, NC., through our referral partners within the school system and a dozen local agencies serving families in financial crisis. 2577 of those served were children and 351 were adults, mostly women. Our plan is grow our program to reach an additional 500 children each year. Our program provided 2577 children more than a bag full of clothes, shoes and a coat. Each bag contained love, dignity, self-esteem, pride, self-respect and motivation. The qualities needed to pursue a quality education that provides the opportunities that eventually lead to prosperity.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $100k - $250k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Note in the Pocket has enjoyed a steady increase in financial support from a variety of funding sources but we are very aware that to continue to keep pace with our program growth we need to invest in a development program. Staff and work space needs also continue to rise. Our sustainability plan includes hiring a Development Director and eventually a Major Gifts Manager. We are also developing a donation-based mobile volunteer program.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

Currently, families pay bus or taxi cab fare, or use gas they can’t afford to reach programs that offer free or reduced-priced clothes. They spend hours searching through mounds of random clothes piled on tables or search through multiple thrift shops in hopes that they find enough clothes in their children’s sizes. Unfortunately, this type of resource rarely has multiple quantities in the sizes needed of seasonable and school-appropriate clothing. More often than not, the clothes available are not new or like-new and therefore the child doesn’t feel like they have “new” clothes.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

There is a monumental effort happening to improve education in our country with better teachers and more technology, but none of this helps the child who consistently misses school because they lack the basic clothing needed to attend. Nor does it help the students who arrive at school embarrassed and uncomfortable because they are forced to arrive in clothes and shoes that are either far too big or far too tight - humiliated and in pain - they are doomed for failure. Our program aims to change each students story by allowing them to arrive at school dressed for academic success.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Other

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Andre Wicks

Dallas, sweet idea.  I wish you the best in developing and scaling it!
Andre Wicks