By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator  

It was the excitement of back to school shopping for school clothes, at least for girls, who walked out of the dressing rooms and twirled with delight in their new uniforms. The boys tended to roll their eyes and groan when sent back to try on another set of clothes.  

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Jalesia Allen looks over the new clothes her children, Janiah, left, and Jaiden tried on during the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s Uniforms for Kids distribution.  Photo by Debbie Shelley | The Catholic Commentator 

 

But even more noticeable was the look of relief and gratitude on the faces of parents and caregivers coming to the Uniforms for Kids distribution at the St. Vincent de Paul Store on Plank Road in Baton Rouge.  

The St. Vincent de Paul Society provides uniforms for children who will attend Head Start through eighth-grade in the East Baton Rouge public and charter schools. Since July 10, the St. Vincent de Paul Society has distributed about 3,000 uniforms to families who qualified based on their income, said Cheryl Scott, administrative assistant for Uniforms for Kids for SVDP. Once school starts, left over uniforms will be given to the schools for the guidance counselors to give to children in need.  

“Our goal is to give out 8,000 uniforms,” said Scott. 

The children each received two sets of uniforms, one for warm and one for cold weather.  

“I think this gives the kids a sense of ‘everybody’s wearing the same thing.’ They are not out of place. It builds their self-esteem,” said Scott. “I’ve seen plenty of smiles. When we pack the bags, each child wants their own bag … They say, ‘I’m going to start school in my new uniform.’ ”  

Hilda Carrier, who is caring for two foster children, was thankful for the uniforms.  

She had three foster children when floodwaters damaged her home in north Baton Rouge in the flood of 2016.  

“We lost everything,” said Carrier. “I was at a crossroads of having to return the kids to the foster care system for financial reasons. But I prayed about it, and God revealed to me that I didn’t need to put the kids through more trauma because they had been through the flood with me. By sending them back, it would have been devastating for them.” 

And the recovery is still ongoing for Carrier.  

“But with the help of St. Vincent de Paul I was able to clothe them for another school year. I don’t know where I would be without them. Because I don’t want them to go back to school looking like foster children. I want them to go back looking like my own kids. And I was able to do that with the help of St. Vincent de Paul,” said Carrier with misty eyes.  

Her face brightened as she noted that one of the three foster children was placed for adoption and her daughter is in the process of adopting the other two children.  

Brittney Sanders recently moved from the New Orleans area and is undergoing kidney dialysis and living with her sister and brother-in-law’s family. Because she has not received expected child support, Uniform For Kids has helped her focus on getting her children the things they need for school. She said it’s also helpful for her children, Parker, 12, and Peyton, 8, adjust to their new schools.  

“They’re already nervous because they are going to a new school,” said Sanders.  

She said her children are sociable and should be able to fit in, but the uniforms will help ensure that.  

And she will also be able to focus on her health.  

“I’m determined that I’m going to get a kidney. That’s a goal I’m working toward,” said Sanders.  

She plans to attend fieldtrips and volunteer at the school as she is able.  

“This helps to put things in order and get ready for school, for me and the kids,” said Sanders. 

Jalesia Allen, a single mom and member of St. Agnes Church in Baton Rouge, said Uniforms for Kids helps her to apply money toward school supplies and other necessities.  

“That (uniform costs) takes away from food,” said Allen. “It helps me to concentrate on what we need rather than where we’re going to get the next uniform. It’s a great help.”  

Her children spoke about their dreams.  

“I want to be a basketball player,” said Jaiden, 9.  

Janiah brightly said, “I want to be a veterinarian.”  

Madeline Acosta and Corrine Cook, seniors at St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge, said their time of volunteering together at Uniforms for Kids has turned their hearts even more toward helping people.  

The two conceded if they have to get a new uniform “it’s no big deal,” so the experience of seeing how Uniforms for Kids helped families touched them.  

“I want to go into law. I’ve always had that idea of wanting to help people,” said Acosta. 

“She’s giving like that,” smiled Cook.  

Cook, who plans to pursue a career in journalism, said the experience has fueled her desire to go on a mission trip to Central America.  

“That would be cool,” agreed Acosta.