The Evanston School Children’s Clothing Association is returning to its pre-pandemic format this school year: students and families can once again visit the organization’s clothing center to choose their clothes.
The organization, founded over 90 years ago by parents in Evanston/Skokie School District 65, provides clothing to any child in Evanston based on demand. During the pandemic, ESCCA turned to online orders, where a volunteer selected clothes for a child based on their size, and the family picked up the order at the curb.
Since returning to the in-person format, co-chair Elaine Darer estimated that 90% of families attend the ESCCA Clothing Center at the Joseph E. Hill Early Childhood Center, up from 50% in the 2021- 22.
“When (students) come in person, you know they’ll be happy with what they take home,” Darer said. “When we do curbside orders and you pick out the clothes for them, hoping it’s sporty or it’s preppy, you just don’t know.”
So far this school year, ESCCA has served 55 elementary and middle school students, with an additional 69 students planned, Darer said.
Evanston’s parents founded the organization in 1931 when a district doctor discovered that a large number of students were absent from school because they did not have adequate clothing, according to the ESCCA. . website.
Volunteer Enid Shapiro, who heads the coat division at ESCCA and has volunteered with the organization for more than 12 years, pointed out that the organization does not have a financial need requirement.
“We can donate a full wardrobe to anyone in the school district who requests services,” Shapiro said. “We don’t turn anyone away. If they want to come, they can come.
Shapiro said each child receives underwear, a winter coat, a light coat, snow pants, winter boots and an assortment of hoodies and sweatshirts. Shapiro ensures donated coats are in good condition and even purchases additional coats using monetary donations. Evanston residents can also drop off items in a metal bin outside the Early Years Center at 1500 McDaniel Ave.
Darer said school social workers and health workers can refer families to ESCCA if they notice a child lacks adequate winter clothing.
“There are emergencies every day where we are able to make a child’s life more comfortable and fair when they walk into class in the morning,” Darer said.
Emily Erickson, health aide at Walker Elementary School and ESCCA District 65 health aide liaison, connects students and families with ESCCA services. If a family contacts her or if a teacher notices that a student wears the same clothes over and over again, Erickson fills out a service request form to inform ESCCA of the student’s needs.
Erickson also ensures that each district health unit has spare sweatshirts and jackets should a student need something in the middle of the day. If parents are not comfortable contacting ESCCA to make an appointment, Erickson said she asks volunteers to deliver items directly to school social workers and health workers.
Still, Erickson said she loves seeing kids shopping at the ESCCA clothing center after more than a year of largely online orders.
“I love seeing kids have a great time picking out clothes and having a say in what they’re going to wear,” Erickson said. “Because if you look good, you feel good.”
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