WOON Just for You 1

Gathered to celebrate the opening of Just for You are, from left, Mark Cote, Community Care Alliance director of child welfare, Linda Plays, human services director for Woonsocket, Ben Lessing, CCA CEO, Paulette Hamilton, director of constituent services for Gov. Dan McKee’s office, Colleen Joubert, CCA director of communication and development, Wendy Pires, CCA event and volunteer coordinator, Nicole Brien, Rotary Club president, and Pamela Jalette, Rotary Club president-elect. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)

WOONSOCKET – An effort to furnish new and gently used clothing to children in need around the city officially launched last week with the opening of the Just for You clothing closet at Community Care Alliance.

Members of the Woonsocket Rotary Club and CCA staff gathered at the CCA Family Support Center at 245 Main St. last Wednesday, Sept. 1, to celebrate the opening of the new giving center for children. The program offers new and gently used clothing, toiletries, backpacks and diapers for foster children and other families in need.

“We think it’s important that they know that they have value, and that’s what this space is for,” said Nicole Brien, Rotary Club president.

According to Brien, conversations about the project began last January when Rotary Club members were delivering face masks to local nonprofit agencies. State funding for clothing allowances for children in foster care has waned in recent years due to budget constraints, and the Rotary Club sought to help children in recent placements or those facing other challenges. According to Ben Lessing, CEO of CCA, the circumstances around foster care can be traumatic enough for children without the loss of their possessions.

“Kids that go into placement, no matter what the placement, always are enduring trauma,” he said. “Kids show up in placement, and a lot of times they show up with the clothes on their backs.”

In the spring, the Rotary Club collected more than 3,000 pounds of clothing in a citywide drive. Brien said the closet was a group effort, with many businesses and organizations pitching in. M&N Laundromat washed and folded all the clothing, and students from Beacon Charter High School for the Arts painted a mural in the space where children will “shop” for new items. Heavy Press Graphics, Amica and Lowe’s also contributed to the project, and Good Shepherd Catholic Regional School and the Smithfield High School girls’ lacrosse team both held drives to help fill the space.

The center will be open Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 12:30 to 3 p.m. and by appointment. Rotary Club volunteers and CCA employees will staff the space, and the Rotary Club will oversee referrals from the Woonsocket Education Department and other organizations. While the program is geared toward children in foster care, Brien said any families in need of children’s clothing are welcome to contact the Rotary Club about visiting the space.

“The community has been wonderful about supporting this project. We’re getting calls every day,” she said.

While they’re hoping to collect more clothing again soon, Brien said they’ve currently maxed out their storage space at CCA and in a storage container on the grounds of Woonsocket High School. Once more clothing has made its way into the hands of families and freed up space, she said, they’ll announce another community drive.

Families in need of children’s clothing are invited to contact the Woonsocket Rotary Club at www.woonsocketrotary.com .

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