Free New Clothes for Rialto Students: Kindness Connection
By Dianne Anderson
Every parent’s wish list is coming true – free new Nikes, free new Adidas, free Levis, only the good stuff for kids and teens of Rialto Unified School District.
And, no one needs to know that it didn’t break the bank.
The past two years of nonstop COVID-related economic impact has been brutal for many low-income families and single moms trying to afford to pay rent, let alone keeping their fast-growing students in decent clothing.
Brenda Salas said the district’s newly remodeled “boutique-style” Kindness Connection: Clothing and More is now open for parents and guardians to schedule private time for a showing. She said their selection is completely safe, anonymous and best of all, families can check out without cash.
“It’s a cute little clothing boutique with sitting area and racks that we have available to all of our students in the district that are in need of clothes or shoes, or whatever may be,” said Salas, McKinney-Vento/Foster Youth Liaison.
Referrals come by way of staff and teachers, and parents can also contact the district to schedule a private appointment. The store is located at the Cesar Chavez/Dolores Huerta Center for Education.
The recent rebranding with all new items is a step up from the previous Clothing Tree project, which offered gently worn items, similar to a thrift store. The revamped project is now all new items, including backpacks and other daily essentials.
Outreach to the parents usually comes through school staff and teachers that connect with families to see if they’re in need, and to let them know that the district is there for them. Sometimes, the teachers find out directly from the students.
“Usually, that topic will come out that my kids need shoes or clothing,” she said. “If the students have someone they trust on campus like the counselor, they’ll mention my mom can’t afford to buy clothing.”
Salas said the district has been stocking the racks and shelves, and they were fortunate to have many pulling together on clothes drives and personal donations to fill the boutique. Secretaries across the district held a huge jean drive. They received clothing from community partnerships, and they are hoping to work with more agencies to make sure clothing is available for the students.
“We received bags and bags and bags of brand new jeans. The teachers union did a sweater and jacket drive last year, a lot of it was donated,” she said. “We had people at home with new clothing items that wanted to donate.
She invites everyone who can donate new items to contact the district office, and to know their donations are going to a good cause. They are always looking for small children to adult sizes for the taller and bigger teens.
“Anything that is school appropriate, that’s what we need to keep in stock. We have a plethora of socks from a donation a while back, but we need shoes,” she said.
As long as it’s new, it’s something someone needs.
Dr. Patricia Chavez said their top priority is getting resources to families, and following COVID safety protocols. They serve one family at a time inside the boutique.
Wellness liaisons are available at each school site for foster youth, along with many other mentoring services. She said parents needing help with any resources can reach out to the District’s Child Welfare and Attendance office. Or, contact the main district for the clothing center to be connected with appointments.
The only requirement is that students must be verified as a Rialto Unified student.
She said it’s been a work in progress since starting as the former Clothing Tree program, which most parents know about.
“It became like – why can’t we do prom dresses as well? That shifted essentials deodorant, toothbrushes, toiletries and that evolved into our kids deserve better. We wanted to provide them with new clothing,” said Dr. Chavez, Lead Innovation Agent, Education Services.
A massive amount of new donations poured in through their many community partners. The program is just now getting the word out to parents, who are encouraged to make an appointment before the rush.
The process has been exciting, she added. They wanted a nice place to house the store and revamped one of their facilities.
“Like most projects, it evolved into the right thing,” she said. now with the beautiful center with the new clothes, I’m anticipating bigger demand, but it’s just been open a week or so, we’ll see.
The vast majority of RUSD families fall into the low-income category. With so many students facing a long-term cycle of need, she said it could be easy to slip into a lifetime mindset of not expecting anything good or new for themselves.
“This is brand name clothing, really nice stuff,” she said. “We hope this will bring people joy and a little relief and a little sense of normalcy with kids, that it’s just normal to have nice things, or have new things,” she said.
To schedule an appointment, contact RUSD Brenda Salas at 909-873-4336 or see https://kec.rialto.k12.ca.us/KindnessConnection