STAMFORD, Conn. — The executive director of a Stamford organization where kids from lesser means can shop free for clothing understands their circumstances.
Elaine Rubinson was just 5 when her family came to the United States from Israel with few possessions and little clothing. She can relate to the children, ages 5 to 12th graders who come in with their parents to Clothes to Kids of Fairfield County.
Run like a retail clothing store, the organization donates new and gently worn clothing to its young clientele, children eligible because they are either on the reduced or free lunch program or in crisis.
They get to shop from the racks and try on outfits on Saturdays by appointment, and volunteers help them choose their clothing, a wardrobe replete with five tops, four bottoms, new underwear, and socks, boots, and a jacket.
"We didn't have much money at all for a long time so I remember what that experience was like," Rubinson said.
"Later in my career, I taught in the South Bronx and at one time worked as a social worker. There were no services we knew about for children or immigrants."
Rubinson founded the organization's Connecticut chapter after attending a fundraiser for a chapter in St. Petersburg, Fla., last year.
"We are an extension of Clothes To Kids, an organization that's been around 14 years. I thought their delivery of used clothing was amazing. We're the same organization, an affiliate, but totally separate. We used their model and template to open."
The store takes donations of used clothing in excellent condition, ones "you would wear or want your kids to wear" so nothing is damaged, torn, stained, or too worn.
"It's like a regular store. Kids come in and try on outfits. These are not hand-me-downs. No one else they know has worn them. There's no embarrassment or humiliation. It's like shopping in any store," Rubinson said in the phone interview.
Run strictly by volunteers, they are a "wonderful, dedicated group of women," who do everything from receive merchandise, stock shelves, handle administrative services, and give personal attention to the families.
“It’s a phenomenal group. Everyone gets along with everyone. They all work hard."
Others in the community go in to help out, she noted.
“Right now we have a need for new underwear and socks so we (gave) fliers to Starbucks stores and now have people dropping off packages (at the Starbucks)."
Volunteers are also needed, said Rubinson.
"We need help shopping on the outside for inexpensive clothing that we don't have in stock, outside buyers. We need volunteers willing to have cocktail parties and have guests bring donated clothing and money for us. We need people to donate clothing and people to be personal shoppers with the kids when they come in."
The store is located in Yerwood Center-Boys & Girls Club at 90 Fairfield Ave., Stamford.
In addition to donations, Clothes To Kids of Fairfield County needs more volunteers. To volunteer, make a donation and learn more, call 203-984-6695 or 203-539-1120 or click here.
For client applications and information, call 203-533-9846 or click here.