Dates set for clothing sign-up

Morning Journal/Mary Ann Greier Church Women United of Salem book coordinator Trudy Ehrhart looks at some books with 5-year-old Darren Sims, left, and 7-year-old Landen Roberts, both of Salem, during preparations for the annual Back-to-School Clothing Sign-Up for children in need in the Salem city school district entering Head Start through eighth grade. Each child who signs up for the program will receive a free book. The sign-up schedule is 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. July 24 and 25 and 9 a.m. to noon and 3 to 6 p.m. July 26 and August 1 at the Emmanuel Lutheran Church Education Building on South Broadway.

SALEM — School doesn’t start for another six weeks, but Church Women United of Salem is once again making sure children in need have a new outfit for that first day at Salem City Schools.

The annual Back-To-School Clothing Sign-up is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. July 24 and 25 and 9 a.m. to noon and 3 to 6 p.m. July 26 and August 1 at the Emmanuel Lutheran Church Education Building, 251 S. Broadway Ave.

The program covers only children of low-income families in the Salem city school district (along with St. Paul) who are entering grades Head Start through eighth grade.

Parents or guardians who bring their child to apply for a Walmart clothing voucher must bring two proofs of income and residency along with the child’s name, age, birth date, and school grade entering this fall. Each child will have an opportunity to pick out a reading-level appropriate book to keep during the registration.

Vouchers can be used to purchase clothing and shoes for back to school at the Salem Walmart and are only valid from Aug. 1 through Aug. 31. Voucher values will range from $50 to $70 and are made out in the child’s name. The child must be with the parent to redeem the voucher, with all sales final, no money refunded and no exchanges.

When finished shopping, the parent must take the clothes, their child, the voucher and a photo identification to the service desk for check-out.

“This is our big program. The people look forward to it, they really do,” program assistant coordinator Laurel Todd said.

She’s been around since the program’s beginnings, which started many, many years ago. She couldn’t put an exact number on it, but said in the beginning, the members of Church Women United would go out to Kmart and buy the clothes, based on the sizes submitted on the applications, and set a distribution date to pass them out.

In 2006, they switched to a voucher program and started working with Walmart.

Since that time (2006), the total number of families served through last year totaled 2,627 comprised of 5,552 children. Each year the number of families fluctuates, falling anywhere from 172 in 2007 to a high of 232 in 2009. Last year, the number was 202. The number of children also fluctuates, with 357 in 2007 to 482 in 2009. Last year the number was 425.

Todd also noted that they do have applications written in Spanish for any Hispanic families who qualify.

The program, which is coordinated by Pat Doering, is supported by the Pearce Foundation, the Salem Community Foundation and donations from churches, individuals and organizations. Letters were sent out to various churches, organizations and clubs and individuals who donated previously.

Anyone who wants to donate is welcome to write a check to Church Women United and write Back to School on the memo line. The check should be given to Treasurer Gail Tetlow.

For the first time ever this past winter, the group gave mattresses out to children who needed them, along with pillows, blankets and bedding. The number was 120 twin Serta mattresses.

“Our purpose is to be a service to the community,” Todd said. “Our biggest concern is community, serving where we live.”

That service for Salem Church Women United started with the group’s organization in 1949, bringing together Christian women from different denominations in the community to form as one for prayer and service.

The not-for-profit group includes active participation by women in 13 churches. Church Women United identified the need for the local AID and helped start the Quaker Day Care. Current officers include President Ila Jeanne Paxson, Vice President Pauline (P.J.) Devine, Secretary Sue Motherwell, Treasurer Gail Tetlow, and Assistant Treasurer Laurel Todd.