Five moms and one teacher at Humphrey Elementary School in Chandler are showing students how to make a difference in their community. Children need only give the shirts off their backs — when they’ve outgrown them — to the Clothing Exchange.
Originally intended to help families with school clothing costs, the Clothing Exchange has evolved to teach lessons in recycling and making a difference in the world. Humphrey families deposit washed and folded pants, shirts, dresses and skirts, sized for children in kindergarten through sixth grades, into wooden receptacles. That clothing is then sorted and stored daily by volunteers in preparation for the monthly exchange.
At those exchanges, held in the school cafeteria, clothing is free and families need not to have donated to participate (they do have to have a student enrolled at the school). The next exchange is scheduled for Friday.
"We’d like to see this go to other schools," said Sara Ross, one of the organizing mothers. And not just for the need it fills, but because it gives children "ownership of the world," said kindergarten teacher Julie Ortega.
"My kids are proud of the clothes they’ve gotten at the clothing exchange," said Mary Gascon, an exchange volunteer and mother of three.
Cyndy Zapeda, whose two boys also don exchange duds, sees the Clothing Exchange as teaching "caring and repairing the world. They aren’t too young to learn that."
Ortega came up with the concept for the exchange last year. After she mentioned the notion to mom Becky Babcock, the idea grew into a reality as other mothers signed on and volunteered services, or the services of their husbands. Tim Gascon, Mary’s husband, built the wooden boxes that are used as clothing depositories. Mom Andy Janofa was crowned the group’s "copy queen," making fliers to keep everyone informed. All mothers and teachers pitch in to sort and store garments. Then they work the exchange. Volunteers, the women noted, are always needed and welcomed. Call (480) 812-6831 for more information.