Community Education

Free back to school shopping this weekend at Community Clothing Drive and Giveaway

Posted on August 24th, 2023 By:

Students return to school in less than two weeks, a relief for many busy parents and some studious kids.  

It can also be a cause of stress for some Peninsula School District families. Back to school means back-to-school shopping, an expense not everyone can afford.

That’s where Food Backpacks 4 Kids’ fourth annual Community Clothing Drive and Giveaway can help. This weekend, Aug. 25 through 27, the Key Peninsula-based nonprofit will give away thousands of articles of clothing and accessories for all ages. 

“If I missed this event, I’d be freaking out,” said Jessica, a local mom who asked that her last name not be used. Jessica and her family rely on Food Backpacks and volunteered Thursday to sort items for the event. “I wouldn’t be able to make it through the year.” 

Volunteers sort and fold clothes donated to Food Backpacks 4 Kids’ Community Clothing Drive and Giveaway on Thursday, Aug. 24, at the Key Peninsula Civic Center.

Donations collected for weeks ahead of time 

Organizers have been collecting items for the drive at 10 locations around the Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula communities since June. Much of it was stored at the Purdy Costless store — so much that Food Backpacks needed multiple trips with a box truck to get the clothes to the Key Peninsula Civic Center, where the giveaway starts at noon Friday. 

Everything at the giveaway is free and anyone can pick up whatever they need. Donation jars will be out for people who want to donate, but Food Backpacks consciously avoids asking for money at the giveaway. The organization wants the giveaway to be a true no-barriers event. 

Food Backpacks launched the event during Covid-19 shutdowns, when need in the community hit new heights at the same time that fewer services and resources were available. It’s only grown since. 

“This looks to be our biggest event so far,” said Zaida Woodworth, executive director of Food Backpacks for Kids. “People save their clothes all year for us. People really go out of their way to help.” 

Hundreds of bags of donated clothing at Drive-Thru Feed on Wright-Bliss Road, just one of 10 locations where items were donated and stored before this weekend’s giveaway.

Clothing for all ages

Though Food Backpacks schedules the giveaway to coincide with back-to-school shopping season, it’s not just for kids. Clothing for people of all ages and sizes will be available. 

“Anything you can imagine, it gets donated there,” Food Backpacks communications director Michelle Johnson. “We have suits. We have shoes and coats and hats and purses and gloves. Onesies for the babies.” 

Every year, Johnson sees moms getting emotional because, they tell her, they haven’t had new-to-them clothes in years. Any money in the family clothing budget goes toward the kids. 

It’s important not only to “help you stretch that dollar,” Johnson said, but also “to make yourself feel good. A new to you outfit for work, for a job interview, new-to-you outfit for kids going to school. It just makes you feel good,” and that makes people perform better at work, in the interview or in class. 

Volunteers sort and fold clothing before Food Backpacks 4 Kids’ Community Clothing Drive and Giveaway on Thursday, Aug. 24, at the Key Peninsula Civic Center.

So many donations, storage becomes an issue

So much gets donated that nobody can say for sure how much is available. Woodworth’s best guess: Enough clothes to fill about 2,000 kitchen garbage bags. 

It’s so much that not all of the items can be displayed at one time. Johnson said they encourage people to come back on multiple days, because they might find something Sunday that wasn’t out on Friday.

Despite the volume, almost every article of donated clothing will find a new home before the weekend’s over. Food Backpacks donates anything not claimed at the giveaway to other organizations, like Gig Harbor Peninsula FISH food bank and the Tacoma Rescue Mission. 

At least 100 people volunteer to help with effort. Woodworth said about 70 people signed up to event; on Thursday, many people who hadn’t signed up popped in to help. 

Some, like Jessica, both volunteer and do their back-to-school shopping at the event. 

“It really means everything to me and my family,” Jessica said. “I really don’t know what we would do without them.” 

Community Clothing Drive and Giveaway 

What: Food Backpacks’ fourth annual Community Clothing Drive and Giveaway 

Hours: noon to 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26; 9 a.m. to noon Sunday, Aug. 27 

Where: Key Peninsula Civic Center, 17010 South Vaughn Road NW 

Also: Please bring your own shopping bags if possible

Volunteers sort and fold clothing before Food Backpacks 4 Kids’ Community Clothing Drive and Giveaway on Thursday, Aug. 24, at the Key Peninsula Civic Center.