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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Nonprofit offers free, new clothing to homeless, foster children

Emily Carroll, 14, unpacks the clothing that was donated to her nonprofit clothing exchange in Coeur d’Alene on Monday. The grand opening of the North Idaho Clothing Exchange takes place from 3 to 6 p.m. today. kathy plonka @spokesman.com (KATHY PLONKA kathy plonka @spokesman.com)
Emily Carroll, 14, unpacks the clothing that was donated to her nonprofit clothing exchange in Coeur d’Alene on Monday. The grand opening of the North Idaho Clothing Exchange takes place from 3 to 6 p.m. today. kathy plonka @spokesman.com (KATHY PLONKA kathy plonka @spokesman.com)

Emily Carroll, of Coeur d’Alene, learned in middle school last year that some kids don’t have enough money to buy new clothes.

“She started talking about it at home,” said her mother, Karlene Behringer. “I tried to explain that not everyone has the same resources. She said, ‘I’m going to start my own company and get these kids some clothes. This isn’t fair.’ ”

Youthful idealism, perhaps, but the 14-year-old Lake City High School freshman has delivered.

The organization she started, the North Idaho Clothing Exchange, opens today from 3 to 6 p.m. at Project Safe Place in Coeur d’Alene. Carroll and Behringer will give away piles of brand-new, name-brand clothing to children referred to the organization by caseworkers and caretakers. The nonprofit is located at 201 E. Harrison Ave., in the basement of a center that helps homeless and low-income people.

NICE will be open from 3 to 6 p.m. the first and third Wednesday of every month. Kids can visit once a month and can select from a variety of free items, based on supply. NICE wants to help kids who are in foster care, homeless or being raised by relatives. The nonprofit is soliciting donations of new and gently used clothing, along with equipment to display them, such as hangers and clothing racks.

The clothing supply now is ample, thanks largely to Aéropostale Corp. of New York City. A few months ago, Carroll wrote to several companies to request donations, including some that sell trendy clothing – Aéropostale, Gap, American Eagle, Zumiez, Hollister and Macy’s. A representative from Aéropostale called her mother and said the company would send some sample items, Carroll said.

Then the boxes started arriving – big, moving-style boxes, shipped to her mother’s office. First six, then another four, then another four, all crammed with the latest styles, for all seasons, for boys and girls of all sizes. Carroll and Behringer estimated they received 17 boxes from Aéropostale.

The company’s generosity allowed Carroll to open NICE earlier than expected. Racks and tables are loaded with clothing for kids ages 7 to 21. What she really needs now are racks and hangers to display all the T-shirts, winter coats, jackets, hoodies, flip-flops, backpacks, lunch bags, scarves, jeans and shirts.

Brandi Smitherman, who runs Project Safe Place, said Carroll’s timing was perfect because her organization wanted to start something similar to NICE. When kids come to shop, they also can have a meal, get help with homework or advice about problems at home or school, she said.

“We’re providing the space, the partnership and the access to that demographic,” she said.

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