Spring is in the air and in homes across Westchester, families are opening their drawers and closets to bring out their T-shirts, shorts and lightweight jackets to welcome the warmer weather. For a sizable percentage of Westchester families, the nice weather poses a challenge – how to find clothing for growing children while living at or below the poverty level?
The Sharing Shelf, a program of Family Services of Westchester, Inc. (FSW) and the Junior League of Central Westchester (JLCW) partnered this past weekend to answer that question for more than 100 teen girls plus dozens of their mothers and younger sisters from local families in financial need. The community partners set up shop at the Theodore D. Young Community Center in Greenburgh on Sunday, April 27, to bring the joy of a free spring shopping spree to area families. Organizers brought in and displayed thousands of donated new and gently used spring and summer items such as shorts, pants, jackets, skirts, dresses, shoes and handbags. Included among the donations were hundreds of new pieces of costume jewelry. The girls and their families arrived from all over Westchester County – some walked to the Center from their Greenburgh homes, while others traveled from as far away as Yonkers, New Rochelle, Mount Vernon, Ossining, Port Chester, White Plains and Peekskill. Each attendee was given a certificate entitling her to choose more than a week’s worth of outfits plus a choice of jewelry. Each left with a gift bag filled with beauty supplies.
The Sharing Shelf regularly collects clothing for infants, youth and teens, distributing it free of charge to children through more than 40 schools, social service agencies, churches, hospitals, food pantries and community programs. Each year, the program – whose motto is Clothing, Children, Community - distributes over 45,000 items through its Port Chester warehouse. Volunteers sort donated items by size, season and gender, discarding anything that is damaged or stained, before creating packages of a week’s worth of outfits matched to a child’s sizing needs.
e day’s success came together with the help of adults and children from throughout Westchester. Student volunteers from local schools such as Greenburgh Graham, Iona Prep, FASNY and Holy Child dedicated their community service hours to the project as did a boy’s soccer team from Rye. To prepare for the event, Pace University’s Beta Delta Chapter of Omega Phi Beta Sorority arrived with 13 women to hang some of the thousands of items of clothing on Saturday night.
“This spring, we made a concerted effort to reach the families who access area food pantries and soup kitchens. With the cutback in food stamps, more area families are not only struggling to feed their children, they are struggling to clothe them as well. Our efforts paid off and we had many girls and their mothers, grandmothers or guardians arrive and take advantage of our program,” says Deborah Blatt, Program Director. The Sharing Shelf hosted its first Girl Topia in November 2012, organized with Caroline Stoerger a Girl Scout who earned her Gold Award on the project.
Community partners were key to the event’s success. “It was an exciting day," said Karen Metviner, Co-Chair of the Junior League's Committee. “We had so many terrific items that I encouraged the girls to please take more. It was a joy to work with them and experience their happiness.” Natasha Barbera, a new member of JLCW, echoed Karen’s excitement, “I'm a new member and [it was] an AMAZING event. Seeing their faces after they find something they love is such a great feeling. It made my weekend to be a part of it.”
One participant, a high school student who traveled from Mt. Vernon to shop, told organizers, “I honestly had an amazing time Sunday. Never have I been to such an event. The clothes were lovely, and the women there were genuinely kind. The best part was the whole shopping experience. We got to pick out clothes, try them on, then check out. It really helped me out financially and I got some really great pieces.”
FSW operates more than 50 mental health and social service programs that reach 30,000 children, teens, adults and families each year. FSW’s programs run the gamut from adoption services to elder care, from home health care to youth residences and include chapters of such national programs as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Head Start and AmeriCorps. The agency’s 450 employees and 350 volunteers operate out of seven offices throughout Westchester County. To learn more about FSW, check out the agency’s website at www.fsw.org or contact Mary Vinton at (914) 305-6836 or email@example.com. To learn more about FSW’s Sharing Shelf, contact Deborah Blatt at (914) 305-5950 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org