Clothing drive is like Christmas in July for kids
Story and photos by Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University Arena was transformed into a wonderland of gifts and love this week as hundreds of volunteers gave armloads of goodies to more than 4,500 children during the Back to School Clothing Drive.
It was like Christmas in July, but instead of Santa, there was Thunder, and instead of elves, hundreds of volunteers helped students select shorts, shirts and shoes. They filled pillowcases and hand-knit purses with bracelets, wallets and book marks.
“These kids, through no fault of their own, don’t have the same resources we do,” said Karl Gentles, the organization’s executive director, as he glanced at the free shopping mall on the arena floor.
“This is the culmination of nine months of work each and every year. It is inspirational for us to see it come together.”
It’s a gargantuan giving effort involving 264 schools from 40 districts, 2,600 volunteers and fundraising that brings in more than $450,000, Gentles said.
“GCU is enormous in its generous support of our organization,” Gentles said.
By hosting the event, GCU gives thousands of young students a glimpse at the world of higher education at young age, perhaps planting a seed for the future, he said.
Various “department stores” set up on the arena floor brimmed with new supplies. There were “shops” for socks and underwear, shirts and sweatshirts, shoes and shorts and skorts.
The last “shop” was Stitches of Love. Rack upon rack of brightly colored, beautifully made handmade clothing was surrounded by tables laden with hand-knit scarves, bags and caps, handmade bracelets, bookmarks, wallets and T-shirts.
“We are the cherry on top,” said Sandy Whitver, Stitches of Love coordinator.
These are not hastily thrown together garments; they are caringly stitched and are of the highest quality. Girls’ hats may sport an additional knit flower, and their soft bags are filled with small toys and hair clips. The pillowcases for boys bore colorful images of super heroes and cartoon favorites.
Whitver said about 250 crafty volunteers make about 48,000 garments a year for the clothing drive.
“We start sewing on Sunday for next year,” she said.
Alajandra Sesmas, a Thomas Edison Elementary School first-grader, was admiring a pink bracelet on her arm.
“I can’t believe they made this,” she said.
She also had a bag, two dresses, leggings, a knit hat and scarf hair accessories, a skort, shoes, underwear and socks.
Each child receives items valued at about $300 retail, Gentles said.
“We are trying to remove fundamental barriers to their school success,” Gentles said. “We do that by providing them with school supplies.”
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.