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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Operation Clothe a Child gives needy kids wardrobe upgrade

Eight-year-old Malinda Allen of Rathdrum picks out a new coat during the Kroc Center’s Operation Clothe a Child program at J.C. Penney in Coeur d’Alene on Tuesday. (Kathy Plonka)

When she attends the Christmas concert at John Brown Elementary School in Rathdrum tonight, 5-year-old Hailey Rojo will be wearing her brand-new, ruby-red dress.

The kindergartner bought the dress at the Coeur d’Alene J.C. Penney store Tuesday night with help from Robin Fisher of Post Falls, her volunteer personal shopper.

“The first thing on her list was a dress,” said Fisher. “We went to her size area. She pulled out the most beautiful little Christmas dress. She said, ‘I have a Christmas program.’ I said, ‘Have you had a dress like this before?’ She said, ‘No, this is my first Christmas dress.’ ”

This week, 135 children in kindergarten through fifth grade in Kootenai County are shopping with volunteers for $120 worth of clothing each. The funding is provided through the second annual Operation Clothe a Child program run by the Salvation Army Kroc Corps Community Center in Coeur d’Alene, in partnership with J.C. Penney.

Kroc Center employees worked with elementary school counselors countywide to identify children in need, said Maj. John Chamness, executive director of the Kroc.

With money raised through community donations, each child received $100 to spend with help from a volunteer personal shopper. The children had lists of needs provided by parents but also had freedom to select things they wanted. The store also gave each child a $20 discount for spending $100, said Vanessa Trudeau, a J.C. Penney supervisor. And, employees of J.C. Penney donated $1,500 to the cause.

“We’re well aware of the many needs of the kids in our community,” Chamness said. He wanted the children to know: “Mom and Dad may be having a tough time right now, but there’s other people in the community that care about you and will be there for you.”

Fisher said Hailey also selected two pairs of pants, four shirts, socks, underwear and a pair of glittery shoes with flowers and butterflies that light up when she walks.

“It was the most amazing thing,” Fisher said. “You feel like you’re getting more than the person you’re donating your time with. I couldn’t believe how many people were there. I was really, really impressed and so proud of our community.

“You feel this connection with this little person,” Fisher said. “We will definitely remember her in our prayers.”

Andrea Miller, Hailey’s mother, said four of her children were invited to participate in Clothe a Child this year. With 11 children and a granddaughter to care for, Miller said, “It gets very hard. It was really a blessing to have that for them. Thank you to everyone that helped with that. It was something we wouldn’t have been able to do ourselves.”

Miller said Hailey was most excited about her new Christmas dress. “It was the first thing she pulled out of her bag to show me. She’s a little princess. Everything is princess.”