For one county woman, donating money to a free school-clothing bazaar tomorrow is more than just a charitable gesture: It's an attempt tosave children from humiliation, depression, even death.
The idea isn't absurd to the Glen Burnie resident. Her fiance committed suicide in January, in part because of the trauma he suffered when schoolmates made fun of his shabby clothes, she said.
He never quite got over the humiliation of being ridiculed "because of the few articles of clothing he owned," the young woman explained in a letter she sent with donated clothing and a check for the Back-to-School bazaar.
The county Department of Social Services is helping local churches sponsor the bazaar tomorrow in Harundale.
"I'm so very grateful your program exists," the woman wrote to ChristinePoulsen, director of volunteer services for the county. "Ithas the potential for helping hundreds of needy children. . . . Had it existedwhen my fiance was a little boy, it would have spared him some of his suffering. Please use my donation to help some children today."
Poulsen, who is coordinating the third annual clothing bazaar for needy families, says the effects on a child's self-esteem aren't always "something you hear a lot about."
But they motivated her to help organize the bazaar that has provided free school clothes to nearly 200 county families in the last two years.
"A lot of children out there don't have anything, but they deserve something when school starts, simply for their self-esteem," Poulsen explains.
County families may shop for free school clothes from 1 to 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Harundale Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall across from Harundale Mall.
Local stores and churches have donated enough clothing for each family to choose one new outfit for each child and one or two used outfits, plus a pair of shoes if the bazaar has the right size, Poulsen says.
Many county stores, such as J. C. Penney in Annapolis andPeachtree on Main Street, have donated clothing. Most stores that sell children's shoes or clothing gave something for the bazaar, Poulsen says. For example, Stride Rite and Buster Brown, as well as Athlete's Foot and Foot Locker in Annapolis Mall, donated cartons of athletic shoes.
"They're all brand-new, never worn. Most stores donated new items," Poulsen says.
The bazaar also has collected used clothing in good condition to supplement the stock. And Jessup Elementary School added a happy touch by donating 30 lunch boxes covered with dinosaurs, Minnie Mouse and G. I. Joe.
While talking about the expense of outfitting children for school has almost become a cliche, Poulsen says, it's more true than ever.
"I have three daughters, and I just bought my 12-year-old three pairs of shoes -- dress shoes, school shoes and sneakers -- and it cost $130."
Socks and underwear go for $3 a pair; clothing tops $20 an outfit. And the needs are exacerbated because children grow so quickly, Poulsen says.
"Usually there's a growth spurt during summer months. It's rare a child can wear the same clothes they wore last spring, even. They start September in shorts and T-shirts, but the ones they wore in June may not fit in the fall. It's very expensive."
A volunteer with county Social Services suggested a clothing bazaar several years ago, says Poulsen, who agreed and found a county church to help.
In the last two years, churches have sent volunteers and clothing. Last yea several Annapolischurches also put together school supply packets, Poulsen says.
Harundale Presbyterian Church offered its Fellowship Hall this year, and the county and Annapolis housing authorities agreed to help transport people who need a ride to the bazaar. Those who need more information about transportation may call Poulsen's office at 974-8612.
More volunteers are needed to help with the bazaar tomorrow, she adds.Anyone wishing to donate clothing, money or time may call her until 5 p.m. today or tomorrow.
"We just want to help children," concludes Poulsen. "If we make some child's first day back to school a little brighter, a little less embarrassing, it's a good use of time and money."