ELYRIA – Gerry Wohlfield remembers one school year when she had to wait more than two weeks to receive new shoes. For a child, going to school in old hand-me-downs can be embarrassing, and Wohlfield, who had five siblings, said it was often a struggle for the family to afford new clothing.
“If normal-income families have that struggle, then how do low-income families get by?” Wohlfield remembered thinking.
That gave Wohlfield an idea, and in 1991 she started Clothe-A-Kid for School, a fundraising effort by area churches to clothe Lorain County children.
Wohlfield is the office manager and former executive director of Love INC of Lorain County, which began as an effort to mobilize churches and volunteers for various community projects.
Wohlfield said Clothe-A-Kid, which employs the efforts of approximately 50 Lorain County churches, is the group’s “most exciting event.”
This year, volunteers who were part of Clothe-A-Kid purchased and distributed more than $37,000 in clothing to give to 508 Lorain County families, according to Bruce Colbert, the executive director of Love INC.
Love INC. works with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Genesis House and Resource Mothers to determine families who are in need.
Families lined outside of Love INC’s building Saturday morning. The building at 221 Gulf Ave. also houses The Twelve Inc. and New Life Full Gospel Ministries. Each child received two pairs of pants, two shirts, three sets of socks and underwear, and other items that volunteers purchased.
Colbert said he has received different reactions from families who receive the clothing, but most say they are “really thankful” for the help.
“Your first day of school if you have ragged clothes that don’t fit, you’re going to be bullied. But if you can clothe kids in new clothing, you’re setting them up for a good school year,” he said.
Volunteers recalled various Clothe-A-Kid events — one woman who had her hours cut at work cried when she received her bag of clothes, and a young boy who looked up to his mother and said, “Wow mommy, my first new clothes.” Those moments were most gratifying, they said.
Clothe-A-Kid took a lot of time and effort, according to Julie Fair, activities coordinator of Love INC.
Fair began volunteering with the agency in 1990 after her mother-in-law became involved. Overseeing volunteers and sending information out to interested churches has taken all summer, she said.
Wohlfield said Love INC was able to provide clothing to 200 children when the fundraiser began in 1991, but that number has grown substantially. The most families who received clothing in one year was 640, she said, and Colbert said the organization has always been able to provide enough clothing for each family in need.
Wohlfield said she would like to expand, however.
“If we had more churches, we definitely would be able to help more kids,” she said.
Colbert said Love INC is always looking for volunteers to donate money for clothing or volunteer to shop for the agency. Those interested in volunteering can fill out a form online at the agency’s website, www.loveinclorainco.org.
Applications to receive clothing are taken in June and clothing is distributed to those approved in August. Applications are accepted until late July, and Wohlfield said the sooner a family applies, the more likely they will be able to receive help.
The family’s need is then verified, according to Fair, who said the agency examines various requirements.
“Everything is on a case-by-case basis,” she said. “We look at income, but we also look at the whole picture.”
To apply to receive clothing for the Clothe-A-Kid event next year, those interested can call Love INC’s client request line at (440) 322-5683.
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