Over 117,500 articles of clothing distributed in Sussex
A Millsboro nonprofit is hoping the entire Sussex County community will support its cause.
Clothing Our Kids was founded in 2012 by Mary Rio. It pulled at her heartstrings when her husband, an administrator at an elementary school, told her about a child who wore the same clothes every day.
She went out and bought that child new clothes herself. Rio soon learned there were many children in Sussex schools in need of clothing and began a mission to help as many as she could.
Rio has since retired, but Clothing Our Kids on Route 24 has continued to grow. To date, the organization has helped more than 20,400 kids with more than 117,500 articles of clothing. It is entirely volunteer-run, with 150 people working without pay to make it happen. Requests come in from school nurses.
Many volunteers have personal reasons for donating time. Susan Bies, of Millsboro, is Clothing Our Kids’ marketing director.
“About 15 years ago our house burned down and my children didn’t have clothes to wear to school the next day,” she said. “I was lucky enough to be able to get my kids clothes very quickly. But knowing what my kids felt like it sticks with me to this day and I don’t want any kid to have to feel that way, for a week, a year or their whole time growing up.”
Clothing Our Kids serves 33 elementary schools and pre-kindergarten centers in Sussex.
Everything they give out is new. Volunteers seek out sales, collect coupons and form relationships with store managers to get the best bang for their buck.
“There’s a sense of self-esteem and pride and confidence with new clothing,” Bies said. “Our hope is that every child has that ability to walk into school and feel comfortable. Kids deserve to be able to concentrate on learning.”
Despite serving all of Sussex County, most of the volunteers are concentrated in The Peninsula Community of Millsboro. Bies is hoping to change that.
“It really is a Sussex County labor of love to try and make a difference in our own backyard,” Bies said. “And one of the reasons I got involved was to grow the volunteer base more broadly. We want this to be a Sussex effort.”
Find out more at clothingourkids.org.