140 children receive clothes and shoes through beloved Rotary program
VANCOUVER — Nearly 140 children received the blessing of new clothes and shoes this holiday season through the beloved Santa Clothes program with JCPenney at the Vancouver Mall.
“It’s the smile on the kid’s face,” said Henri Moreau, from the Vancouver Rotary. “You bring in the spirit of Christmas and the holidays, and it makes all of the pre-planning that we’ve done, it makes it all worthwhile.”
A sea of small faces filed into the store, Wednesday morning; some had never set foot in a such a store much less ever been given the resources to buy such clothes.
One by one, each child was paired up with a generous volunteer and given their list of needs; each one soon to be fulfilled through the magic of compassion. No more shoes with holes in the rain. No more frayed coats in the cold. In place of unmet needs, there would be favor and fulfillment.
Many of the children come from the foster care system, and more still live each day below the heavy line of poverty. Through connections between local children’s organization and the donations of Clark County businesses they will feel less of a burden this Christmas.
“For some of the kids that are coming through this program, this is the very first time that they have been able to pick out something brand new for themselves,” said Jennifer Miltenberger, of the Vancouver Rotary. “They feel that is part of their style that they can go back to school and feel like they’re wearing something that they’re proud of.”
In partnership with JCPenney and the Greater Clark Rotary Club, the Rotary Club of Vancouver hosted the 2019 Santa Clothes event, after founding it some eight years ago. This year, they increased the number of children helped by 75 percent from their first year.
Several area organizations and non-profits also engage with the community to bolster the event, including the Boys and Girls Club, the Salvation Army, the Hough Foundation, Share Vancouver, and Bridge the Gap.
“The favorite part is seeing the connection that they’re making with the actual volunteer that they’ve never met before, and how they get that first new outfit to wear to their Christmas programs,” said Deanna Hansen, the general manager of Vancouver Mall’s JCPenney. “You’ll see a lot of times they’ll choose like a Nike sweatshirt or a Nike shoe that they wouldn’t have normally got to have. They’re just glowing.”
For this year, JCPenney applied for two grants with the state of Washington; one for each of their locations in the area. Each grant for $1,200 was awarded and the $2,400 was then used for the Santa Clothes program.
The Vancouver Rotary, which will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2020, also helps raise funds for the event. Altogether, some $20,000 is spent on the children at the store.
A man by the name of Bob McBrian founded the Santa Clothes program with the Rotary after moving to Vancouver from Las Vegas. Back in Nevada, McBrian, who has since passed away, founded another Santa Clothes, and served 300 children with the help of the University of Nevada.
“One of the projects that we’d like to do is expand Santa Clothes to include both of the JCPenney’s locations,” Miltenberger said. “So getting more corporate sponsors to help us add children, and the ability to serve more children from our community is something that we would really be interested in talking with anyone who would like to be a corporate sponsor with us.”
Santa Clothes is made possible through over 150 volunteers who sign up for the event ahead of time. For more information on future opportunities to volunteer with any of the organizations mentioned, visit them on Facebook or online through the links on their names above.