Clothes To Kids Of Denver Help Give Free School Clothes To Students

Clothes To Kids In Denver, Colorado. June 22, 2016. Photo By Ellen Jaskol.

Photo by Ellen Jaskol

When Jode Eye and Marie McClung volunteered at a Florida public school back in 2002, they saw firsthand that inadequate clothing was a barrier to success among low-income children and youths. After some research, the two women discovered a tremendous need within their community for clothing for students, so worked together to start Clothes To Kids.

Fast-forward to 2007, when Gail Cerny, a volunteer serving in Colorado schools, also recognized a striking number of students without adequate clothing, which noticeably impacted their peer interactions, school attendance and ability to build self-esteem. After examining possible ways to meet this need in the Denver community, Cerny visited the Clothes To Kids store in Florida. She was so inspired by the impact that Clothes To Kids was having that she joined forces with Joyce Meyers, Lesa Butler and Mary Overington to start Clothes To Kids of Denver (CTKD), which opened its doors in September 2008.

Today, CTKD provides hundreds of free school wardrobes each month to students from low-income or in-crisis families and has built a strong reputation among schools, human service agencies, shelters, hospitals, clinics and faith communities across the Denver area. In fact, the nonprofit has had a record-breaking year, providing over 10,000 wardrobes to kids from preschool to age 21 in 2022—and it’s on track to surpass the 11,000 mark in 2023.

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A dapper young gentleman looking confident in a blazer from Clothes to Kids of Denver.

“It’s all about dignity and feeling confident,” shares executive director Valerie Lunka. “It doesn’t matter if you’re walking into a classroom or a boardroom, what you wear impacts your self-esteem and helps you feel empowered instead of self-conscious.” Every child who visits the center gets five tops, four bottoms, a bra (if needed), one pair of shoes, a coat, five new pairs of socks (courtesy of Bombas, which donated 75,000 pairs of socks in 2022) and five new pairs of undies!

When COVID-19 hit and CTKD was forced to close its doors in March 2020, the phone kept ringing, and staff soon realized they had to find a way to get clothes to kids even though kids couldn’t shop in person. “We still wanted the kids to be a part of the process of picking out their own clothes, because that is part of the empowerment process,” shares Lunka, “so we created a wish-list form for them to fill out. This allowed us to learn more about what each individual kid wanted and help to curate a
wardrobe just for them with our curbside service.”

There’s no referral needed to shop; you just need to call and ask for help. Lunka says, “This is a much more dignified approach, and it’s such an uplifting mission to see how these kids and their families feel when they try on clothes and feel special.”

As CTKD enters its 15th year, it continues to elevate the quality of clothing offered, always asking, “Would you give this to a friend, would you wear it, would you feel good in it?” as staff select items. “We’re poised to hit our 100,000th wardrobe this year, and it feels amazing to think of all the kids we’ve been able to help and continue to serve,” says Lunka.

Although CTKD relies on individual donations, it has ongoing programs such as the Undie 500, for which car dealerships have bins that collect new underwear; Kicks for Kids, which gathers shoes at local businesses, schools and churches; and Socks In The City, which, you guessed it, collects new socks. Additionally, its annual Reading, Writing and a Wardrobe fundraiser
is coming up in April, and the Blue Jean Bash will be in September, when a grand celebration of 15 years of community service will be held.

2890 S. Colorado Blvd., Suite M-3, Denver

Categories: Community/Society