‘Happy and excited.’ FaithCentre continues back-to-school clothing giveaway

FaithCentre in Bellefonte is continuing its annual back-to-school giveaway event this year, where every child from kindergarten through 12th grade can get three free outfits and a pair of shoes.

“There’s no income limit, they actually don’t even have to be a Centre County resident. It’s just open to whoever is inclined to make the trip to Bellefonte,” said FaithCentre Director Nicole Summers.

This year, FaithCentre moved up the date of the giveaway event so it doesn’t conflict with the upcoming Grange Fair in Centre Hall. The giveaway, held at the Thrift Store at 110 W. High St., runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day through Saturday, except Thursday when the store stays open until 7 p.m.

“We want to make sure that we reach the largest number of children possible,” Summers said.

She said FaithCentre store manager Donna Spicer and her staff first came up with idea, which started out as a joint clothing and school supplies giveaway with Faith United Methodist Church.

On Sunday, Faith United Methodist Church will hold its annual Blessing of the Backpacks event at 512 Hughes St. in Bellefonte from 4-6 p.m., where school-age children will receive a backpack stuffed with school supplies. Free haircuts and health screenings will also be available, along with food, an appearance from the YMCA’s Travelin’ Table, fire trucks and face painting.

Summers said the timing works out well, since students can get back-to-school outfits and school supplies in the same weekend.

Over the years, FaithCentre started its own event in order to expand its reach to the wider community.

“We do know that many families are kind of living paycheck to paycheck, so anything that can be done to help relieve some of the financial burden that’s attendant to kids going back to school ... by providing some free clothing, that helps parents free up money (is good),” Summers said.

FaithCentre is seeing more children this year than last year, she said, “and that could be because we reworked the scheduling of this event.”

Last year, FaithCentre gave away about $4,000-$5,000 worth of clothing, she said, and this year continues to be busy.

“Everybody’s really, really happy and excited,” she said. “I described it ... as sort of a mini Easter egg hunt.”

The only requirement is that the child has to be present to be eligible for the clothing giveaway. Last year, FaithCentre ran out of children’s shoes during the event, and continue to accept donations of gently used or new clothing and shoes.

Each child who picks out clothing also receives a slip that’s good for a clothing item valued at up to $10 if they bring in a report card with an A or A- in an academic subject.

To find out more about the event or donate to FaithCentre, visit www.faithcentre.info.

Sarah Paez covers Centre County communities, government and town and gown relations for the Centre Daily Times. She studied English and Spanish at Cornell University and grew up outside of Washington, D.C.