It’s back-to-school time and organizations that provide help for those in need, such as Clothes to Kids and the Salvation Army, say higher prices and family economics have created a greater need this year. Clothes to Kids is “critically low” on shoes and Salvation Army has seen a big spike in the need for school supplies.
Clothes To Kids stocks its stores in Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Tampa with clothes for all ages, from preschool to high school seniors, to provide two complete wardrobes a year for eligible families.
“Our shoe supply is critically low,” a news release from the organization said. “We are especially low on elementary kids sizes 13-8. By donating shoes, you will most certainly put a smile on a child’s face.”
You can drop off new or gently used shoes at their location in Tampa, 5011-H W Hillsborough Ave., in Clearwater at 1059 N Hercules Ave. or St. Petersburg at 2168 34th St. S.
Back-to-school shoppers have seen prices rise 24% in the past two years, according to consulting firm Deloitte. School spending this year is expected to reach a new high, according to the National Retail Federation, with the average family spending about $890.
Last year, Clothes to Kids distributed more than 15,000 pairs of shoes to its shoppers, and they expect the need will rise this year.
Children who qualify for free and reduced price lunch in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are eligible to shop in its stores twice in 12 months. They receive a wardrobe of five pairs of new socks, five pairs of new underwear, five tops (three uniform tops), four bottoms (two uniform bottoms), an optional dress, a pair of shoes and a jacket in season, all free of charge.
Families who qualify can make an appointment by calling 727-441-5050 or going to clothestokids.org/shop-with-us.
Because many Americans are dealing with stressed finances, from inflation to rising interest rates, Deloitte’s study predicted families will aim to spend less this year, focusing more on getting basic classroom supplies and saving splurges for apparel and tech.
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At the Salvation Army in Tampa, public relations and marketing director Talonda Yates said they saw a big jump in need this year and have so far given out more than 600 backpacks stocked with school supplies.
“It’s a combination of higher prices and what economically is happening,” Yates said. “Your pay doesn’t increase but the price of something does.”
Their No. 1 request is socks, Yates said, as well as toiletries. But they will take any donations and direct them to where the donor desires.
“If you are out shopping and you want to pick up an extra spiral notebook or pack of pencils you can drop them off for us to distribute,” Yates said. Their center is at 1100 W Sligh Ave. in Tampa. They will also take monetary donations that can be directed toward specific causes like school supplies or families in need.
You can also mail donations to 1603 N Florida Ave., Tampa, 33602, or visit Tampa.SalvationArmyFlorida.org.