The Back-to-School-Clothes Blues
It’s Labor Day weekend, which means “Back to School” sales. Youngsters are demanding the coolest new clothes to wear for their first day back in the classrooms, but not every parent is able to to oblige. Officials say more than 25% of the city’s children live below the poverty line. LORI SPENCER, 36, a single mother of two girls--Akailah, 12, a 7th grader at Virgil Middle School and Toshanna, 2--discusses with MAKI BECKER how hard it is to provide her children with nice clothes for school while juggling her college studies and volunteer work as an HIV counselor.
It’s hard trying to make ends meet since I’m on a fixed income. I budget to the best of my ability. I’m on AFDC [Aid to Families With Dependent Children]. I get $594 a month. They just recently cut us. Before, we got $607.
I clip coupons. I buy my toiletries at a bargain shop. For clothes, I basically put them on layaway so I put in a little bit of money at a time. Usually, we go to the discount stores. I mean, I don’t like it. But that’s all I can afford.
‘Back to school’ time does put pressure on me. It really does. I’m not always able to get the kids what they want. I accept donations. I’m not too good to accept donations.
I usually pick out their clothes, because--you know kids these days--they are kind of picky on what they want and they want expensive things. Well, Akailah might say ‘I don’t like that’ and I have to tell her, you have to settle for that because that’s all mom can afford. I think she pretty much understands.
If I were to advise other mothers on how to talk with your kids about buying clothes . . . explain to them that sometimes you just can’t afford it. Maybe they can get it later on . . . if you save a little money, each month. When I put clothes on layaway it takes me about three or four months [to pay for them].
You know, clothes are expensive. Like new shoes for the kids. They are always growing. And the little one--her shoes barely last a month.
Akailah needs winter clothes. It’s going to be one item at a time. One of the things she needs is a new coat. I found one; I picked it out. She doesn’t know about it yet.
I try to find her clothing that is kind of up-to-date so she can be a part of things. I want her to have some of the nice things that other kids have.
It’s a nice coat. She’ll like it. It suits my taste, too. It’s not like she doesn’t have one, but it’s kind of outdated.
I know a few people that are in our same situation. They have kids, too. At one of the agencies that I’m in, they teach us budgeting. What we do is sit down in a group and we talk about our problems and different issues and things. We fill out a budget paper on how much our income is a month and then how much we spend on different things like rent, bills and child care. We add it all up.
What we do is try to cut back on things we don’t necessarily need. Like instead of eating out at school, I take a lunch. I pack a lunch here or else I wait until I get back home so I don’t have to spend the extra $3, $4 or $5.
Right now, I do volunteer work. I train women for HIV and AIDS awareness. In essence, I am just giving back what was so freely given to me. It’s with the Watts Health Foundation. I’ve been doing that since last March. I hope that maybe it will lead to a full-time job in the future. It also gives me a chance to educate myself while educating other people. It makes me feel good. I’m also a student at Los Angeles City College; my major is human services. I go to school Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
I’m not going to really say that the welfare reform made me decide to go back to school. I just thought, why not do something with your life than just collect AFDC.
I’ve set goals that I didn’t succeed at. But I’m striving.
How to Help
The following are some of the places that are accepting donations for children’s school clothing.:
Assistance League of San Pedro/Palos Verdes is accepting monetary donations for its “Operation School Bell” fund drive to raise money for uniforms for children in public and private schools. Donations should be mailed to: 1441 West 8th Street, San Pedro 90732.
Pomona Valley Council of Churches is collecting childrens’ clothing that meets school dress codes, such as white blouses and collared shirts, navy or gray skirts and pants, and dress socks. Donations of clothing or money should be sent to or dropped off at: 1753 North Park Avenue, Pomona, CA 91768. (909) 622-3806.
St. Peter Claver Center, a member of Catholic Charities, is seeking donations of new-looking children’s clothes and nonperisable food for school lunches, such as peanut butter, jam and tuna fish to be given out to its clients. Clothing and food can be donated at: 4202 W. Jefferson Boulevard, Los Angeles 90016. (213) 737-6036.
Variety Children’s Charity is accepting monetary donations for its “Clothes for Kids” drive. Money collected will be used to buy new clothes from J.C. Penny’s and given to children from low-income families. Donations should be mailed to: 8455 Beverly Boulevard, Suite 501, Los Angeles, 90048. (213) 655-1547.
Women Helping Women Services, [213 655-3111 or from the 818 area code, 800 400-6259] a program sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women, is accepting donations of clothing for children at their seven National Council thrift shops. Dropoffs can be made at:
11571 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles 90025
11550 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles 90025
455 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles 90036
1052 S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles 90019
7818 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood 90046
6110 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood 91606
18511 Sherman Way, Reseda 91335