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Helping Holiday: Note in the Pocket provides clothes to impoverished kids

Today, Note in the Pocket has grown from serving just one classroom to an entire county. The group provides poor and homeless children with a mini wardrobe of clothes that are appropriate for school

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Sarah Lindenfeld Hall
Editor's Note: The focus might be on Black Friday this week, but we're offering ways to give back for Giving Tuesday, which is Dec. 1. Today, we'll focus on Note in the Pocket. Check back to learn more about other local agencies that are helping kids.

It started nearly a decade ago with a teacher's efforts to provide her students, who came mostly from impoverished homes, a warm coat for the winter. Through family and friends, she collected enough coats to dole them out to her class.

The next day, half came back, said Dallas Bonavita, a mom of two and director/chick in charge of Note in the Pocket. Parents, she said, couldn't believe that somebody would give their child a coat.

From then on, the clothes went out with an actual note in the pocket, explaining that the item was just for that child and that they are loved. Today, Note in the Pocket has grown from serving just one classroom to an entire county. The group provides poor and homeless children with a mini wardrobe of clothes that are appropriate for school - from new and gently used pants, shirts and shoes to new socks and underwear.

The need is absolutely overwhelming. Referrals from Wake County guidance counselors and other agencies has exploded in recent months - reaching 425 in the month of October alone. In fact, Bonavita said the group had to stop taking referrals for one week that month because of the demand. All told, 52,000 children in Wake County qualify for Note in the Pocket's services.

Bonavita hears stories of Wake County children who arrive at school with worn and dirty clothes. In some cases, they wear the same outfit again and again. Shirts are too short. Shoes have holes. Note in the Pocket provides a child with about a two-week wardrobe of clothes that they can wear to school.

"I was surprised that our biggest job is to educate Wake County that we have homeless and impoverished children in Wake County," Bonavita said. "People don't know how bad it is."

Because they want the children to be excited about the clothes they receive, Note in the Pocket is picky about what they send out. Bonavita said that, often, donors will clean out their closets and simply ship it all to the charity. In the end, Note in the Pocket volunteers spend countless hours sorting through those donations. About 40 percent are in nice enough condition to be distributed to children. The rest are passed on to other groups.

"We provide with dignity and love," Bonavita said. "There's no dignity in pulling out somebody's dirty old something."

The group really focuses on clothes that children can wear to school. Pajamas, cleats, bathing suits or holiday T-shirts, for instance, only are included if there is room in the bag.

Here is what Note in the Pocket needs:
  • Gently used and new seasonably appropriate school clothes and shoes in all sizes - toddler to adult. The agency works to provide clothes for younger siblings. Many tweens and teens are wearing adult clothes.
  • New socks and underwear. Note in the Pocket does not accept used socks and underwear.
  • All sizes are needed, but boy sizes 7 to 14 always are in short supply.
How you can help:
  • At its newly open Volunteer Center, 5100 Lacy Ave. in Raleigh, the nonprofit has volunteer hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Thursday, for one to four hour shifts. Volunteers help with quality control, sorting, sizing, organizing and packaging clothing orders. The group also will set up special hours for groups to come in and help. Contact Note in the Pocket for details. Kids ages 12 to 15 can volunteer when each child is with an adult. Kids 16 and up can volunteer unaccompanied.
  • Volunteers also can help from home (a popular option for teens trying to fill required community service hours). Volunteers can sort clothes from home. Simple instructions are provided. Bonavita tells me that this also is a popular option for families with younger children who want to give back.
  • Donate clothes and encourage your friends and family to support the cause. Be sure to send only gently used or new clothes and shoes - something you'd be proud to send your own child to school in.
  • Donate money. It takes $14 to provide a pair of shoes to a child in need; $33.75 to purchase five tops. It doesn't take a lot to make a difference.
Note in the Pocket's website has all the information you need to learn how you can give back.
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