Who We Are
The Clothing Connection is a 501(c)(3) based in Salem, Massachusetts. Our board is made up of community members, including parents and public school staff. Meet the board.
What We Do
We provide clothes and other basic needs to Salem children. During the 2019-2020 school year, we served children at five Salem elementary schools and Salem's Early Childhood Center.
How We Do It
We choose our kids' clothes just like you do: with their personal sensory and style preferences in mind. Clothes aren't just a basic need — they are also a means of self-expression. We provide clothes that make our kids feel good, inside and out.
The Clothing Connection, Inc., does not, by policy or practice, discriminate against a person or group on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, gender identity and expression, marital or military status, or based on any individual's status in any group or class protected by applicable federal, state, or local law. These activities include, but are not limited to, provision of services and selection of volunteers and vendors.
This year, our fifth in operation and third as a nonprofit, we provided clothing to more than 150 schoolchildren in Salem. We expanded our program in several ways. We now serve all of Salem’s elementary schools and the Early Childhood Center, as well as Collins Middle School. Additionally, we provide clothing for children served by the district’s Homeless Liaison and instituted clothing closets at Collins Middle School and Horace Mann Laboratory School.
Despite the pandemic, we received several small gifts and grants from local organizations, held our annual Thankful for Warm Clothing drive, and hosted a virtual fundraiser with author Jane Healey. We also received space generously offered by First Church and will spend the summer moving our stores into that space. Thank you, First Church!
In addition to getting the job done amid a global pandemic, this year we are most proud of our work pulling in more caregiver voices. Our new online form allows caregivers to provide us direct and specific input on what their child likes and doesn’t like, what they feel good in and what makes them squirm. Caregivers know far better than we what clothes are best for their children. Next year, we hope to get a Caregiver Council up and running, allowing caregivers to provide input on what items we provide and how the forms work, and to get involved with our “clothes-raising” in their own family and social circles.
This year more than ever we are grateful for our supporters, especially those who come back again and again, always waiting for our next ask. Thank you as well to our Ambassadors, who help us get the word out, encourage giving, and volunteer their time and social media platforms. And we are grateful for the SPS staff who not only serve as our liaisons with caregivers, but also brainstorm how we can do what we do better.
Thank you: Jade Bachmann, June Casale, Laura Coffey, Keshia De Leon, Jennifer Doucette-Ly, Jenni Espinal, Abbey Goldstein, Erika Griffin, Susi Hammond, Bethann Jellison, Arabelis Luciano, Marlene Lunt, Brad Maloon, Genevieve Nutt, Heather Perry, Mia Riccio, Joy Richmond-Smith, Emily Ullman, Ellen Wingard, Liz Yoder
Thank you as well to those businesses, organizations, and foundations who supported us this year: Eastern Savings Bank, Gingle/Lerman Realty Group at REMAX 360, JM Electrical Company (which hosted a Thankful for Warm Clothing drive in addition to donating), the McCarthy Family Foundation, Salem Children’s Charity, the Salem Lions Club, the Thread and Needle Society, Walmart, the Whole Foods Market Community Giving Program, Witch City Wicks.
Big-Picture Goals for 2021-22: Better engage and manage volunteers so our board members are able work strategically and think ahead, rather than constantly scrambling. Gather more caregiver input. Think in terms of inclusive philanthropy. Raise more money.
2020-21: We brought in about 17.5k (plus $13k carried over from last fiscal year) and spent about 14K
2021-22: Bring in $25k so that we can expand and add the whole district. We estimate the cost of additional schools is $20k based on the jump for 2019-20 to 2020-21, when we added more schools.
2020-21: We served more than 150 children, adding Witchcraft Heights, the Early Childhood Center, and Collins Middle School to our purchasing program during the pandemic. We provided new clothes for a closet at Horace Mann Lab School and renovated the Closet of Hope at Collins (see below). We began working with the district’s Homeless Liaison to provide to families she’s helping. We began using online forms, which not only allow for more efficient intake, but also for a much greater degree of caregiver input on clothing. Finally, thanks to First Church, we have a dedicated storage and work space.
2021-22: Have our new space set up and running by the start of the school year. Identify and train purchasing liaisons at each school. If funds allow, begin serving students at Salem Academy Charter School, New Liberty, and Salem Prep. If funds allow, make use of new space to store clothes purchased ahead of time on sale.
2020-21: We met with Brad Maloon (City Connects for CMS) and June Casale (Adjustment Counselor for CMS) to find out what needs were to maintain the current “Closet of Hope” at CMS, started by a Girl Scout troop. They would like us to maintain and organize the closet and keep it stocked with used clothing, as well as toiletries and new undergarments. Mr. Maloon was able to get us a $1,000 donation from Salem Children’s Charity to use for the closet. We visited a few times at the end of the year to organize and bring used clothing in. We used about $80 of the Children’s Charity money to purchase toiletries.
2021-22: Gather more used items. Hoodies in adult sizes are needed, and more men’s clothing (all sizes) and larger ladies’ stuff. We will continue to check in on the closet and keep it stocked. We would also like to add a set of cubby shelves and a shoe rack or two.
2020-21: We received several small grants and donations from businesses, organizations, and foundations. See above.
2021-2022: We haven’t mastered the art of applying to bigger foundations. Seek expert advice on applying for larger grants. Grow volunteer committee to increase amount of asks and research capabilities.
2020-2021: The pandemic mostly killed our ability to have fundraisers, but we held a successful Thankful for Warm Clothing drive, covering almost all of the clothes we needed. We also held our third successful fundraiser with author Jane Healey, this one virtual.
2021-2022: Try to pull in one volunteer from each school to serve on the Fundraising & Grants committee. We would benefit from people who are not us holding fundraisers and reaching new people.
2020-21: We were often overwhelmed with donations. Lots of stuff went to Savers because we had limited space and were given items that couldn’t be used. We were able to give a lot of bags of clothing to kids, with 5-10 items per bag.
2021-22: Now that we have space at First Church, we would like to organize our bins and bring them there for storage. Colette Loux will continue being the contact for people to donate their clothing. She will sort at her home and bring what can be used for CC to the church and the other stuff to another donation place. She would like to make some notes to add to the bags of used clothing being given stating that the items are used and if the child cannot wear them (for whatever reason) to please donate to another child, or something along those lines … just so it’s clear that they cannot exchange used clothing for other sizes.
2020-21: In Fall of 2020, it was clear that our fundraising efforts were a more a collaboration of many than the work of one individual board member. We thought that the creation of a Community Outreach Coordinator would better facilitate a continued presence in the community and centralize the coordination of volunteers. The board voted on and approve this position in February 2020, and Beth Forrestal took position of chair. The Covid-19 pandemic pushed us to provide more to the families we help support in Salem Public Schools. We utilized our Ambassadors and social media outlets to build up our used clothing bins and to help deliver winter gear to families with our largest ever Thankful for Warm Clothing Drive. Despite many efforts, we were unable to get a Caregiver Council up and running in the 20-21 school year. This is of the highest priority going forward as the input of our families is important.
2021-22: 1. Increase social media posting to create and continue community engagement.
2. Continue to utilize the ambassador program and the one-off volunteers like we used for the Thankful for Warm Clothing Drive.
3. Find and utilize translators through Salem State University to further increase communication with our families and the community at large.
4. Set up the Caregiver Council with a volunteer at the head and minimal input from the Community Outreach Coordinator.