There are some things that we as humans should never have to go without, and this is especially true for children. Food, water, shelter, and clothing are all vital resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods, but unfortunately, those stricken by poverty often lack these basic human needs.  

Studies show that two out of every five American kids are unable to adequately dress themselves every day. Furthermore, “lack of clothing” accounts for three of the top ten reasons kids miss school.

While the numbers depict an alarming reality for today’s children, one place offers “simple solutions for complicated times” by meeting the clothing needs of eligible children in Snohomish County, Arlington Kids’ Kloset!

Arlington Kids' Kloset
Arlington Kids’ Kloset is neatly arranged, so shopping is a breeze. Photo courtesy: Arlington Kids’ Kloset

Nonprofit Arlington Kids’ Kloset Helps Children in Need of Clothing

Since 2005, the nonprofit Arlington Kids’ Kloset has met children’s clothing needs in Arlington, Darrington, and Lakewood School Districts. Just this year, they also added Granite Falls to the list.

“We’re growing,” Site Manager LaCrissa Spencer was happy to share, knowing that with the addition of Granite Falls, they can provide even more children with clothing in the area.

The nonprofit was started initially by two energetic and compassionate women who sincerely desired to help students, Linda Dussault and Kimberly Meno. Linda had previously been a long-time volunteer with similar organizations in her prior community, while Kimberly had previously been a high school teacher in Arlington with a master’s degree in family and child development.

Once Kimberly noticed the community’s deep need for this nonprofit model, they began working towards its creation. Together, they were able to grow Arlington Kids’ Kloset both in community support and for families that were able to use its services.

Twice a year, the children who qualify for services are invited to four renovated classrooms in the old Arlington High School that was built back in 1936 — a fitting location as kids as young as preschool to high school seniors once again grace its halls.

“It’s kind of nostalgic, really, for some of the parents and grandparents,” shares LaCrissa.

Instead of attending class, however, these students are walking into Arlington Kids’ Kloset’s welcoming environment for an enjoyable “shopping” experience, just as it would be if they were visiting their favorite retailer. Best of all, there won’t be any paying when it comes time to checkout at the register as all items are free of charge.

Arlington Kids' Kloset
Groups like LDS Stillaguamish Ward Young Women’s group donate their time and energy with Arlington Kids’ Kloset to gear up for when kids visit. Photo courtesy: Arlington Kids’ Kloset

Who Qualifies for Help and How Arlington Kids’ Kloset Works

To utilize this generosity from Arlington Kids’ Kloset, students must qualify for free or reduced-price lunch or attend ECEAP in one of the four school districts they currently service. In addition, they also provide services to children in crisis due to fire or sudden relocation.

To get started, parents must provide the required documentation and fill out the client intake form on their webpage. Once accepted, they are invited to shop twice a year, with each visit catered to the seasons.

“Those that qualify are welcomed to come in to shop during both our spring and summer selections and then again when we put out fall and winter items,” explains LaCrissa.

To visit them after qualifying, parents need to call to make an appointment to come in with their kiddos. Upon arrival, they’ll get a shopping list of what items they’re allowed to grab and how many of each item, which will all be free to them. For those bashful types who may be worried about what their peers may think, LaCrissa assures them that they need not worry.

“Children are never booked at the same time as another kid at their school,” shares LaCrissa, explaining that Arlington Kids’ Kloset preserves kids’ privacy by locating their services off-site from students’ schools and scheduling appointments as a mandatory rule.

Discretion and sensitivity are paramount in their line of work, and they strive to make students comfortable in any way they can while using their services. For this reason, teens are additionally invited to browse their clothing selections without their parents if they like.

“Kids are even welcomed to wear their new clothes out of the store,” adds LaCrissa. “We just want to see them comfortable and happy.”

Arlington Kids' Kloset
Each child also gets a hygiene pack. These packs are also donated to local school nurses from time to time to give out to kids in need. Photo courtesy: Arlington Kids’ Kloset

A Free Shopping Spree at Arlington Kids’ Kloset

Upon arrival at Arlington Kids’ Kloset, families receive a shopping list that tells them exactly how many of each item they can pick out during their free shopping spree. They’re given an hour to browse, and what is on the list change depending on the season.

“If it’s summer, they’ll get a light jacket. If it’s winter, they’ll get a big winter coat,” explains LaCrissa, adding that seasons also affect how many of each clothing type the kids receive. For example, during the winter, each child will get five pairs of bottoms to wear, choosing between leggings, jeans, joggers etc. In contrast, during the summer, they’ll pick out three bottoms.

No matter the season, some items on the list remain constant. Kids always receive a new pack of underwear, pajamas, shoes, hygiene packs and more.

“Anything a kid could wear or use for school,” says LaCrissa. “So backpacks, purses, lunchboxes — you name it, we’re providing it!”

Each student also goes home with a book of their choosing, as well as two additional items apart from the list as a little something extra that may not be part of their typical day-to-day.

“I remember this young girl got some eyelashes as one of her extra items,” shares LaCrissa. “It’s the little things like that, you know, that truly make a difference. It means so much to them.”

In addition, Arlington Kids’ Kloset also offers a loan program that students can utilize. Those needing music and choir outfits or prom and homecoming attire are welcome to browse their large selection of long dresses and men’s wear and can rent out these items at no charge.

Arlington Kids' Kloset
Local schools, like Pioneer Elementary, also donate by running events like SOCKTOBER, where they donated 1,700 socks after holding fundraising events. Photo courtesy: Arlington Kids’ Kloset

Arlington Kids’ Kloset Assist Students Thanks to Community Support and Generous Donations

Families aren’t the only ones visiting Arlington Kids’ Kloset. The organization also works closely with all the school district’s student support advocates, who get their own time slots throughout the day to either bring the students in or come alone to shop for the families.

With these advocates’ help, they can ensure that even more students are helped by their services.

“Just recently, we hosted 27 students, all of which we were able to service in just an hour and a half,” shares LaCrissa. “Last year alone, we served 900 kids.” That’s 900 shoes, 900 packs of underwear, 900 coats, 4500 shirts, and the list goes on! “As you can imagine, that’s a lot of clothes,” says LaCrissa.

Thankfully, grant money, donations, and some bargain shopping go a long way in helping Arlington Kids’ Kloset serve the students of the Arlington, Darrington, Granite Falls and Lakewood School Districts.

“Without the grant money, we wouldn’t be able to buy hygiene packs, for instance,” shares LaCrissa. “Or head on over to places like Walmart and get their $1 and $2 clothing items when they go on sale.”

In addition, a few stores within the community also make generous clothing donations to Kids’ Kloset throughout the year, including one of the local Walmart locations and Tommy Hilfiger in the outlet mall. Three additional businesses in Arlington act as local drop sites — Allstate, Heritage Bank, and Arlington Pediatric Dentistry.

All donated items get washed and cleaned before being hung out on the floor, but nothing goes out with any tears, stains, or unseemly threads.

“We want it to look brand new,” explains LaCrissa, detailing how they go through and quality check each item. Anything that can’t be used gets re-donated to Northwest Center. On average, about 20 to 60 bags a week are sent to the center from Arlington Kids’ Kloset. What they can’t use from those bags then gets recycled.

Arlington Kids' Kloset
Arlington Kids’ Kloset co-founder’s granddaughter, Olivia, ran a fundraiser to benefit Arlington Kids’ Kloset. She raised over $800 that she spent on new clothes and t-shirts to tie dye for the kids. Photo courtesy: Arlington Kids’ Kloset

Of course, anyone is welcome to donate clothing items or cash, but volunteers are also greatly appreciated as the nonprofit is volunteer-based, with LaCrissa’s position as site manager being the only paid one as she’s contracted.

In fact, LaCrissa shares that they’d love to have more volunteers, especially young volunteers, as that’s where the nonprofit could often use the help the most. “Volunteers are the backbone of our organization,” shares LaCrissa. “We’re all like one big family.”

Arlington Kids’ Kloset is one big, happy family working hard to serve the region’s students. “We are most proud to say to our community that if someone donates to Kids’ Kloset, 100% of that donation goes to program services and serving students,” says LaCrissa.

Arlington Kids’ Kloset
135 South French Avenue, Arlington

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