“It all started over a kitchen table with one purple coat.”
The story begins with Jode Eye and Marie McClung, graduates of Clearwater High School, with a passion for helping children in need. Both Jode and Marie had worked in the Florida public school system; Jode having a classroom of her own as a first grade teacher and Marie who enjoyed lending a helping hand to her school teacher sister. When the friends came together with the idea to start a non-profit, they began discussing ways they could help their surrounding community and the people who reside in it. One evening over dinner, Marie told Jode of a story she says she will never forget. Marie was assisting in her sister’s classroom one chilly, Florida-winter day. The day had turned so cold that if a child had no coat to wear, they were advised to remain indoors at recess time. Marie’s sister asked if she could run out to the store and purchase a coat for one little girl who had come to school without one; without hesitation, Marie said yes. When she returned to school with the purple coat she had found, she presented it to the little girl who threw her arms around Marie’s sister with joy and gratitude. The story hit home for both Marie and Jode and at once they knew what they had to do. That night at a kitchen table, with one purple coat, Clothes To Kids (CTK) was born.
The co-founders incorporated and started collecting clothing in 2002 with the mission to provide new and quality used clothing to low-income or in-crisis
school-age children, free of charge. On June 11, 2003, the first CTK store opened in Dunedin, providing 1,200 square feet of shopping space. They outgrew the space quickly and moved to their Clearwater location in 2005. The 5,000 square-foot store was made possible with generous donations from individuals and businesses in the community who joined the CTK Builder’s Club. Department store mogul, Macy’s, stepped forward and helped perfect Jode and Marie’s vision of the “department store” look and feel. The idea was to create a cheerful store environment where families and children would be treated with dignity and respect and receive school clothing, free of charge. In December 2009, a third CTK store opened in St. Petersburg, which made clothing more accessible to families in the southern portion of Pinellas County. Now, for the first time, with the help of CTK friends and family, Clothes To Kids is crossing over Tampa Bay to open a store in Hillsborough County!
$50.00 dollars is the cost for Clothes To Kids to provide a week’s worth of school clothes, consisting of five new pairs of socks, five new pairs of underwear, four bottoms, five tops, a pair of shoes and a jacket in season – all free of charge because of community support. There have been 120,000 (and counting) wardrobes distributed to date. This is all thanks to the many adult and youth volunteers who put in, on a monthly average, 1,600 hours for the cause.
Donation locations in northern Pinellas County are accepted at the Clearwater
store Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM, at 1059 N. Hercules Avenue, Clearwater, 33765. In southern Pinellas County, clothing can be dropped off at the St. Petersburg store Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 1 PM, at 2168 34th Street S., St. Petersburg, 33711 (clothing bin available after hours). The drop off location in Hillsborough County will be announced soon and will be posted on the Clothes To Kids website. While all clothing items are important, there are some items that are always needed and in high demand:
- White and navy blue uniform shirts, all sizes
- Little boys pants and shorts, sizes 6-16
- Young men’s jeans and shorts, sizes 18-48
- New underwear and socks in unopened packages
- Little boys and young men sneakers, all sizes
- Little boys and girls tops, sizes 6-18
CTK is also accepting accessory items such as:
If you have additional questions about donation drop-offs/items, please visit https://clothestokids.org/donate/ or feel free to email Jennifer Jacobs, Development Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Every year, Clothes To Kids hosts an annual luncheon to gather friends and
family of the organization for an hourly meeting to commemorate, reflect and to raise awareness and funds for the future of the non-profit. FLocal Magazine was blessed to contribute to and attend this year’s Clothes Matter Luncheon at The Coliseum in St. Petersburg. The room was filled with caring individuals with one passionate goal in mind. Listening to speakers, watching videos, hearing personal stories of families whose lives have been impacted by CTK will surely spark a fire in those who attend, just as it did so many years ago at Jode’s kitchen table. If you or your company are interested in attending and/or sponsoring The Power of The Purple Coat luncheon or another CTK event, please visit https://clothestokids.org/upcoming-events/ or email questions to email@example.com.
Clothe a kid, change a life.