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A Kids Clothing Swap is just like it sounds: it’s an opportunity to bring clothes your kids can’t use any longer for other families to take and for you to take clothes other families bring.
How do you host a Kids Clothing Swap? What are the details?
First you’ll want to square away a space and date to hold your event. Ask your church to use the gym, the fellowship hall, or any other large space you have at your disposal. Access to tables are a must.
This is a ministry; it’s a way to reach out to the community. So don’t be afraid to enlist the help of some church members. They don’t have to bring clothes to help, they don’t even have to have kids to help with such an event. They can help with set up, making food and coffee, greeting and directing people, or help with clean up and dropping off donations.
Doing the clothing swap in the Spring and/ or Fall are the best times of year. This is when people are switching from cold to warm weather clothing (or vise versa). Here in our little New England state that means April (just be mindful of scheduling around Easter) and October are the perfect months for the swap.
I have always chosen 10 o’clock as a start time on Saturdays and it’s seemed to work well. Noon is a great ending time, though you may find you might not need a full two hours.
Once you’ve settled on a date and place, it’s like planning a party, it’s time to send out the invitations. This isn’t formal though, no need for paper, envelopes and stamps.
Talk to your friends, invite them to come swap kids clothes. If you’re on Facebook homeschool groups for your area, create an “event” and post to any appropriate groups. Ask about posting the event on your church’s website. Create an insert for your church bulletin inviting the church families. Make up flyers to post on community boards in various local businesses. The options are endless.
This promotion period should be at least one month minimum, two months is best. The amount of promotion depends on how involved or how big you want your kids clothing swap to get. It’s okay to start small with your circle of friends and church families. Then the next time add more ways to promote until your event gets too big for the space.
My promotion efforts have consisted of creating a FB event (as my church – you may need your administrator to help), and posting it in a few different homeschool groups, posting in my town’s “TALKS” page, and of course posting to the church’s page. We send out bulletin inserts for 2-3 weeks and I’ve announced up at the podium as well.
Next clothing swap I have two local businesses, the library, and the WIC office where I will ask to post a flyer. I’m so excited to see this grow little by little each time.
The positive side to growing it little by little is you are getting people you know at first, and it will grow by word of mouth. They will come back every time you do the clothing swap and they will bring their friends. The more you promote it each time the more the community will get used to seeing your event, and soon they will decide to come and check it out.
What do you do the day of the Kids Clothing Swap?
If you make your event to start at 10 o’clock, you can ask your volunteers to meet for set up around 9 or 9:15 am. You’ll want to set out tables, no chairs, with plenty of space to move around. If you have enough tables, set most of them out in the center of the space and some along the walls. If you have limited tables just use the center of your space.
Tape signs with sizes printed on them to the edges of your tables to label where each size should go. If you’re just starting out you could probably get away with the following sizes: 0-6 months, 6-12 months, 12-24 months, 2T, 3T, 4T, 5T, 6 xs, 7/8 to 9/10, 11/12 to 13/14, and shoes. So that would be 10 tables and an area for shoes.
The sizes I used the last time went from 0-3 months up to teens. The sizes 2T to 7/8 had a “boys” and “girls” sign for each of those sizes. We had a total of 24 signs. We didn’t have 24 tables but we made it work. There were 12 round tables set up in the center and four rectangular tables set up on the sides where there were multiple sizes for each table.
As folks arrive, be prepared to direct them and be available to answer questions. The first half hour to hour of the swap will be setting out the clothes. Once you get a feel that most everyone has set out the clothes according to size you can invite them to “shop”.
Brunch finger foods or snacks with coffee and water is simple and easy to provide. Ask your church to help donate and ask someone who likes to make food to help do this part for your swap. It’s always fun to mingle with the moms and show your hospitality through food and a good cup of coffee. Plus you’ll probably have kids running around so a fruit tray and water are great options for hungry kids.
As people continue to set up make an announcement: thank them for coming, tell them why you’re excited they are there, give a quick rundown of how the clothing swap works, invite them to eat the snacks, and tell them to get their friends to drop by (even if they don’t have clothes to bring). The best time to make the announcement is about halfway through the setting up of clothes.
You can decide if you want to announce when to go shopping or just let the flow of the event decide. The moms will usually start browsing when they are finished putting out the clothes they brought if you haven’t made a specific announcement of when to “shop.”
Be sure to introduce yourself to as many moms as you can. And recruit your friends to do the same and reach out to new moms and be friendly. You want them to feel welcome and to feel good about taking a couple of hours out of their Saturday to come to the swap.
Ask if they need bags (remember to bring plenty of grocery bags and those big black garbage bags too) to take clothes in or if they are looking for a particular size. Find out how they heard about the kids clothing swap. Ask if they got a chance to have a snack or coffee. See if they need help taking anything out to their car. Any of these things to help them feel more comfortable.
When you think most are about finished looking through the clothes make a final announcement: thank everyone for being a part of the kids clothing swap, let them know you plan to do another one (either in about 6 months or the next year), tell them to leave their email or find your Facebook group (I made a group specifically for the clothing swap so once I get the date set, people who I know have come and want to come again will be able to easily find out about the next event) so they can be the first to know the exact date when it comes up.
What do you do after the Kids Clothing Swap?
I try to wait until fifteen minutes before the stated end time before cleaning up. Here’s why: you’ll always get a straggler, someone who sees the event time for 10-12 and comes at some point during that time instead of at the start time.
I’m also learning in the past few years of publicly doing this that we ALWAYS have leftover clothing that people don’t want to bring back home. And the more people who come, the more leftover clothing you get. I do have one or two people who come with the intention of bringing home what wasn’t taken of theirs, and that is completely fine! But most people just don’t want to deal with the excess.
So with the plentiful amount of clothing that I know will still be there at the end… I post on the event page and again in the community boards on Facebook right at the start time or a little after, to let people know to come to the swap even if they don’t have anything to bring and that we’ll be there until noon.
We had at least two ladies come by last minute who were so thankful for the opportunity to get some kids clothes.
Clean up is a breeze if you have a few helpers. If you don’t have anyone “assigned” to help with clean up, you’ll usually get a few moms to stay a while to help. Take a look at what you have left and place a bag every table or every few tables then start loading them up… and remember those signs you taped to each table… tape them to the bag once it’s filled.
Labeling the bags by size is super helpful to any organization you decide to donate to. Last time as I was dropping off probably 10 bags, the ladies helping to bring the bags to their room all commented on how wonderful that the bags were labeled.
Think about it, they run on volunteers sometimes and may not always get a chance to un-bag everything. When a client comes in to look through their room and they can’t find a certain size for their child, well by golly, the volunteer can say “wait a minute! here’s a bag you can look through from a donation we just received.”
After you’ve labeled and bagged the clothes, cleaned up the snack table and cleaned up the space you were using for the event, you’re just about done.
Delegate, ahead of time, a few volunteers to help you distribute donations.
Where should you donate the leftover clothes?
I personally like to keep the donations local. We have quite a large community ranging in need. There are always people close by needing the basics, and being able to provide basic clothing for their kids can be a great relief. Personally, I also stay away from Goodwill, Savers, etc because the clothing in the end will not be given or donated directly.
Local WIC office
Food Pantry that accepts clothing
Local preschools and elementary schools for when kids have accidents and need a change of clothes
Church Nursery schools
Foster care programs
Community organizations who keep clothing donations
Mission trips or any countries your church supports that need clothing donations
How will you know if your Kids Clothing Swap was a success?
If you are walking around and talking to people, you’ll see it in their faces. You’ll see the gratitude and appreciation.
Moms will tell you thank you, and will be going home with “new” clothes.
Even when the swap was small with only 7 moms or so attending it still all worked out pretty well. The mom who had the oldest kid wasn’t able to take anything home, but she was able to clean out the closet and was able to bless other moms.
You might even have people asking you if you’ll do this again.
No matter what, you are blessing families by providing an opportunity to meet that basic need of clothing. You are helping to take some of the stress out of having to spend money for clothes for their kids. And through the donation of the leftover clothes you have no idea how many families you’re helping out.
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