Greater Good

Kids Matter

Especially During the Holidays

Article by Shannon Stewart Salinsky

You take the time to shop, contemplate, mull over colors and caress textures. You browse the aisles up and down until that one outfit literally jumps off the rack and says, “Take me home!” It’s tough to deny the feeling and excitement of putting on a new item of clothing that you selected. Oh, let’s not forget about the socks. Is there any better feeling in the winter than putting on a brand new, sparkly white, crisp pair of socks? This was a staple in my Christmas stocking growing up and to this day a brand new pair of socks brings warm memories of my youth and this time of year.

Now play out that same scenario in your head, but the person shopping is a child who lives in poverty. Can you imagine the joy in a parent’s heart to see their child shopping for new warm clothes for the winter?

MAKING A DIFFERENCE | Kids Matter International (KMI) hosted its 7th Annual “Around the Block” clothing program presented by Boston’s the Gourmet Pizza and Kohl’s department store in Southlake at State Highway 114 and Southlake Boulevard in early November.

KMI is a Southlake based charitable 501c(3) organization that brings hope and healing to orphaned, abandoned or disadvantaged children by providing an environment where they can grow stronger emotionally and physically. KMI works in conjunction with middle schools throughout Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties to select the children that will participate in the event. However, the majority of the children come from our local area of Northeast Tarrant County including Hurst-Euless-Bedford, Southlake, Grapevine, Colleyville and the surrounding cities.

Although KMI works primarily with middle school age children, any child is eligible for the program, regardless of age, as long as the child is enrolled in school. Up to four children per family may participate. The list is prioritized with the help from school counselors.

The organization also works with local school systems, churches, social service groups and other nonprofit organizations to identify and contact the local families of the children.

The event offers brand new clothing to over 1,200 children from the DFW Metroplex. KMI has discovered that by providing new clothing for these children, they gain personal confidence and a feeling that they are deserving of the very best. This event also teaches them that our community cares about their well-being.

The KMI “Around the Block” program enables families with limited resources to make sure their children get the things they really need for Christmas, including a brand new pair of shoes. The children, who are accompanied by their parents, get to pick out their own clothes to ensure they get exactly what they want. Some of them may be getting brand new items of clothing for the first time this year or for the first time in their lives.

POVERTY RATES IN TEXAS | Most people in our community are surprised to know how many children live in poverty right in our own back yard. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the Texas poverty rate in 2012 was 17.9 percent, which fell only slightly from 18.5 percent in 2011. The U.S. average poverty rate is 15.9 percent. In Texas, 13 percent of household incomes were below $15,000 per year as stated by census data.

DETAILS OF THE EVENTS | The Southlake Kohl’s operates normal business hours and hosts the “Around the Block” event. After registration, each family is given their scheduled shopping time, then paired with one of over 400 KMI volunteers to begin shopping. Each child receives a $100 voucher to spend that evening at Kohl’s along with a new pair of shoes from Buckner International and a backpack from the Ryan Palmer Foundation. At this year’s event, the Barbara Bush Family Literacy Foundation joined the program and offered a book to each child, as well.

The holidays bring cold weather, warm feelings and the urge to spread joy to all children in need. Plan ahead to be a part of next year’s event.

To get involved now, for more information, to donate or to volunteer, please visit the Kids Matter International website at: www.kidsmatterinternational.org or call KMI at (817) 488-7679

In The Know | Kids Matter International needs over 400 volunteers and and $100 per child to make each event successful.