Kidzshop, the annual back-to-school shopping spree for Albany low-income children, is working harder this year to bring in new families, particularly ones with middle-schoolers.
The effort means some families who have participated in the past may not be eligible this year, depending on how organizations process their applications.
“We don’t mandate or require that it’s a new person every year, because there are circumstances that maybe it would be in the best interest of the child to shop two years in a row, but we also encourage that (not shopping twice) to give more kids the opportunity to shop,” said Kidzshop co-chairwoman Margie Layman, a member of Altrusa, the service organization that coordinates the event.
“We haven’t micromanaged the project to this point,” she added. “This is the first year we’re actually trying something a little bit new, or maybe just reaching out a little bit further than we have in the past.”
Altrusa works with schools, the Salvation Army, the Boys & Girls Club of Albany and the Linn Benton Housing Authority to find families in need to participate in the shopping spree.
Names are cross-referenced to make sure a family is selected by just one organization.
Usually, Layman said, Altrusa just tells the organizations how many children each can select and leaves the criteria up to them. This year, however, it’s asking the organizations to look at specific schools.
Younger students tend to come primarily from Waverly, Sunrise and Periwinkle elementary schools, Layman said. Altrusa suggested to the Boys & Girls Club that it reach out to Lafayette, Clover Ridge, Timber Ridge and South Shore schools as well.
Only a handful of older students tend to participate. Altrusa suggested the Salvation Army allocate some of its slots to children at Calapooia, Memorial and North Albany middle schools.
And, she said, Altrusa asked: Are you picking the same families every year?
“We want to give everyone an opportunity,” Layman said.
Lt. Maureen Lawliss said the Salvation Army plans to divide most of its slots between the three schools and reserve a handful for its own clients on a first-come, first-served basis. Priority will be given to families who have not participated.
One longtime participant told the Democrat-Herald she understands the change but is disappointed by the effect it will have on her family.
The parent, a single mother who asked not to be identified because her children fear being stigmatized at school, said she depends on the annual event to augment the roughly $600 she receives each month.
“It takes me all that money just to pay food bills and scrounge up gas money,” she said. “I’m still just as poor as I was last year, and my kid’s growing like a weed.”
The parent said she hunts secondhand bargains and puts clothing on layaway throughout the year, but can’t start planning layaway now for school clothes because most of the shops are still focused on summer.
“I just don’t think it’s fair if you got to do it last year, or the year before or however many times” you can’t come again, she said. “I see lots of people who have been there multiple times.”
How to help
Kidzshop is a back-to-school shopping spree for low-income children that takes place in August at Heritage Mall in Albany. Volunteers take between 265 and 300 children shopping, filling their carts with $100 to $125 of new school clothes. Coastal Farm provides free backpacks, and other businesses contribute school supplies.
Altrusa holds fundraisers, solicits donations and applies for grants to pay for the spree, which costs a minimum $26,500 per year.
Monetary donations can be made to Altrusa directly at P.O. Box 1815, Albany, OR, 97321 (write “Kidzshop” on the check memo), or to the individual partners: Linn Benton Housing Authority, the Salvation Army and the Boys & Girls Club of Albany.