Young shoppers quickly fill carts during Clothes for Kids event
More than 300 children expected to take part in this year's two-night event
- The program had a budget of $32,500 this year.
- Dozens of volunteer shoppers escort the children, helping them stay within a $100 budget.
- Rio del Sol Kiwanis' Coats for Kids program will be held this weekend at the Farmington Civic Center.
FARMINGTON — Bob Brooks eyed the long row of shopping carts set up inside Farmington's Target location during the early evening on Nov. 3, as well as the quickly growing line of families forming to the side. On his face was a mix of anticipation and apprehension.
"It will be like herding cats in here in about 20 minutes," he said, smiling and grimacing at the same time.
Brooks, the longtime chairman of the Rio del Sol Kiwanis Club's Clothes for Kids Committee, was in the midst of organizing volunteers to assist the needy families participating in the organization's annual holiday shopping event. The two-night event, which was scheduled to continue Nov. 4, allowed a total of 325 elementary school children to select $100 worth of clothing each, with the purchases covered by the club.
The families participating in the program are nominated by teachers and counselors at schools throughout the community.
Brooks said the program had a budget of $32,500 this year. Rio del Sol Kiwanis comes up with the money through several fundraising events throughout the year, including its annual Dining with the Dead celebration, and through its normal fundraising channels.
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The organization has been conducting the program for 15 years, and Brooks has been the chairman for 13½ years. He said those duties keep him from doing any of the shopping with the participating children. But his favorite part of the experience is the stories he hears later from volunteers, who escort the children through the store, helping them find appropriate clothing in the correct sizes and keeping them within their $100 budget.
As the 5:30 p.m. start for the shopping spree approached on Nov. 3, Brooks gathered his dozens of volunteers around him and gave them a series of last-minute instructions. He wrapped up his presentation with reminder for the volunteers to enjoy themselves.
"Basically, just go out and have a good time," he said.
The group of shoppers included two Animas Elementary School students, 10-year-old Autumn and 7-year-old Kai, who were escorted by Sarah Alcon and Jade Garcia of the Four Corners Ichigo Cosplay Group. Alcon was dressed in a Snow White costume, while Garcia was outfitted as Ariel from "The Little Mermaid." They said they have been volunteering for Clothes for Kids for the past five years.
Within minutes of the event's start, the aisles of the children's clothing department at the store were clogged with shoppers and their volunteers. As Alcon and Garcia weaved through the crowd with their shopping carts, Autumn and Kai led the way, looking for new jeans, shirts, shoes, socks and underwear. Autumn was the more efficient shopper, quickly filling her cart, while Kai seemed interested only in attire bearing the likeness of "Star Wars" characters.
It took some searching, but Garcia, who was Kai's volunteer, finally located a display of T-shirts featuring images of pop culture figures. Kai's face lit up as he selected three shirts before he grudgingly was persuaded to head off in search of such necessities as socks and underwear.
"We get to make dreams come true for people," Brooks said, describing the feeling of satisfaction the experience gives him.
He recounted a story from a previous Clothes for Kids event during which a little girl who had already chosen $100 worth of items wanted to add a new pair of shoes to her cart. Her volunteer tried to explain to her she already was at her limit, but the little girl was adamant, Brooks said.
"I've never had new shoes," the little girl said, pleading. "I've got five older sisters, and I've always had to wear their shoes."
The little girl went home that night with two new pairs of shoes in addition to her other clothes, Brooks said.
"It's a world I'm glad I didn't have to grow up in," he said, describing the difficult financial circumstances the participating families face.
Brooks said his favorite Clothes for Kids story happened last year. He watched as a woman with three young daughters approached the check-out lane at Target with their cart full of clothes. The daughters never broke stride, heading straight for the door without their selections.
Brooks tried to call them back, but the girls told him he didn't understand, indicating it was time for them to leave the store.
When Brooks turned to their mother for an explanation, she described how she and the girls frequently went shopping, pretending they could afford anything they wanted and filling their cart with all manner of items. They would push the overflowing cart through the store, enjoying the feeling of being able to indulge themselves, then abandon it near the check-out lanes when reality set in, going home empty handed.
Brooks listened to the mother's story, then turned to the little girls.
"You get to keep it today," he told them.
The family's gratitude was overwhelming, he said.
"I had more hugs than I could handle," he said.
One items that children were discouraged from buying during the shopping spree was coats. The club's annual Coats for Kids giveaway program will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 6 at the Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St. Approximately 600 gently used coats that have been professionally cleaned will be given away to participating children. Visit riodelsolkiwanis.com for more information.
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.