The holidays can be a stressful time for parents who are thinking about the perfect gift to give their children or how to decorate a glamorous Christmas tree.
That stress is nothing compared with the many families in Port Orchard struggling just to feed themselves and dress warmly every day. Despite the Salvation Army bells ringing at every storefront and shoe boxes from Operation Christmas Child in several schools, it’s a need that can often go overlooked by the public.
“There’s a lot of families that need it,” said Claudia Arends, a member at the Port Orchard Adventist Church. “Look at everything that’s going on in this world, you know, and we should do whatever we can do to help people.”
The need is especially so due to the current economy. Increasing prices are leaving families with less money, so families living paycheck to paycheck are in a tough spot. Arends said the situation is so dire that, “A lot of people are just one paycheck away from being homeless.”
It was the desire to help that resulted in Arends and other members of the congregation to create Kids Kloset, a donation-based charity that reached seven years of activity this month. A section of the church is used to store items. Arends said she’s glad to see where the program is now, but also happy to have the backing of the church from the start.
“I kind of did this without permission,” she admitted with a laugh, “but the church has been really supportive of us.”
It works to make sure vital items impoverished families need are available. For example, Arends said that Kids Kloset is stocked nearly every week with fresh diapers, and the demand suggests that families are in desperate need of them.
“We go through a whole lot of diapers,” she said. “We have people that will come just for diapers, and if that’s the only reason they come, then that’s fine. That’s what we’re here for.”
On a majority of Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Kids Kloset is open for families to grab supplies until everything available that day is gone. All families are welcome, and tables are stocked with fresh clothing, as well as new toys. Some larger items are donated that are either given away or donated to another charity.
Kids Kloset will be closed for the remainder of 2022 for the holiday season but will return with the same gifts for families in need in January.
While the number of visiting families can change weekly, typically up to 45 families, Arends said the holidays bring a lot more people. Their Christmas Giveaway Dec. 13 saw a long line of families stretched from the front door to just a few feet from Bethel Road.
The number of people astonished Carol Campbell, a longtime church member and 5-year volunteer. The said it’s moments like that when she can appreciate what Kids Kloset means to Port Orchard.
“It means a lot,” she said, being able to do something worthwhile, making you feel like you’re helping people.”