Serving Darlington’s children with love
By Melissa Rollins
During a recent Darlington Rotary Club meeting, club members presented Beth Hubbard with a check for Kid’s Closet of Darlington. Hubbard gave an overview of what the non-profit does and how many kids they have served.
“What we do is provide new and gently used clothes for children in our community whose parents are experiencing hardship,” Hubbard said. “In the 2017-2018 school year we served about 270 children. That is a pretty good number of children considering that we’re closed in the summer and only doing it during the school year.”
Hubbard said that the start of the new school year is always the busiest time for the closet, as parents prepare to send their kids back to school.
“The beginning of school is very, very busy for us and we have appointments set up to see the children,” Hubbard said. “We have this one grandmama who is raising eight of her grandchildren. She gets no money from the government for those children. Mom was in and out of jail, had issues with drugs, the kids are with all different people. Grandma took those children in and has had them most of their lives. We know come the first of August that we are going to get a call from her. She works cleaning hotels in Florence but she needs a little extra help. So she’ll set up an appointment to come to the Kid’s Closet of Darlington.”
Hubbard said that while many of the items are used, she wants children to have a choice in what they receive so that they have a similar experience to their peers.
“We do like the children to come with the parent or grandparent because we want them to feel like they’re shopping,” Hubbard said.
“We don’t want to hand somebody a bag with used clothes in it or even with new clothes that don’t fit or they don’t like them. When we started the Kid’s Closet that was real important to us. We all had children and while we told our children that clothes didn’t make the person, we all knew that in school you get picked on if you don’t have the right clothes on or your clothes are dirty and torn. We don’t want school aged children to feel ostracized or get picked on.”
Volunteers with the Kid’s Closet work with the Darlington County School District to identify need within the schools.
“Most of our referrals come from the school district,” Hubbard said. “All of our social workers, nurses and guidance counselors have vouchers. If they notice a child that needs clothes, or the parent approaches them about that, they are given a voucher and they call us and set up an appointment. They give us their sizes so we can make sure that we have their sizes in store; if we don’t, we go buy things. We always keep stocks of things we know we’re going to use like jeans. We hit up Old Navy and bought jeans in every size. Pajamas, socks and underwear, we keep those kinds of things all the time.”
Located between Merle Norman and Carolina Bank in Darlington, Hubbard said that they function very similarly to a boutique.
“The kids try on the clothes and if they don’t like them or they don’t fit, they are welcome to try on whatever they want,” Hubbard said. “They usually leave with four or five pair of pants, five or six shirts, new pajamas, new socks and new underwear. With winter coming up, we try to send a lightweight coat home with them or a hoodie and also a heavy coat. They can come twice a year, at the beginning of the school year for winter clothes and then again in the spring for spring and summer clothes. We do uniforms for the schools that require uniforms, like Brockington, Rosenwald and Spaulding Middle School. That is a help to parents who aren’t able to afford them.”
Hubbard said that her organization focuses less on the parents and more on the children that they are serving.
“We look at it that we see a need in those children and that we are going to break the cycle of poverty,” Hubbard said. “We are giving them a step up so that later they will remember that someone was kind to them and that someone showed them Jesus’ love. That is just our way of doing that. We just hope that in the end, it does help them child. We can’t help what the parents are doing; sometimes we get thank you and sometimes we don’t. We don’t let that deter us from our mission of making sure that our children are clothes and taken care of. There should not be one child in Darlington County who doesn’t have the appropriate clothes for school and the appropriate school supplies.”
Though initially under the umbrella of the Carolina Kids’ Closet in Hartsville, Hubbard said, last year the Darlington location became its own non-profit.