First Presbyterian gives needy kids new clothes for school

Matthew Lane • Aug 1, 2018 at 5:30 PM

KINGSPORT — At 9 a.m., dozens of families were standing outside First Presbyterian Church in downtown Kingsport, waiting for the doors of the clothes closet to open.

It was the church’s 14th annual Back to School event, and everyone was eager to get inside and see what clothes and shoes were available.

Lenny Vanderpool brought his nephews Jase, Issac and Camden to find them something nice to wear on Monday.

“We came down last year. I love it. I’m glad they’re doing it for the kids,” Vanderpool said. “It makes a difference. Parents don’t have to worry about spending a lot of money for school clothes and stuff.”

First Presbyterian has operated a clothes closet since the late 1950s, accepting donations from its members and the community at large and then providing those clothes to needy families every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Tuesday’s event had a back to school theme, with the church giving away new shoes, socks and underwear, along with the usual variety of pants, shirts and jackets, to school-aged children.

By 11 a.m., 75 pairs of shoes had been given away and people were still coming through the doors.

“It’s pure elation and joy,” said Don Thompson, the director of the clothes closet, of what the church gets out of the event. “The kids are smiling and it’s a treat for us.”

Thompson and a group of eight to 12 volunteers oversees the clothes closet, which takes up four large rooms on the downstairs floor of the church. They’re filled with clothes and organized by age group and gender. The rooms have everything from sneakers to dress shoes, T-shirts, dress shirts, casual wear, jeans, slacks and shorts.

A good variety of suits, coats and jackets is available, as are a few prom dresses and specialty items.

Visits to the clothes closet should not exceed two per month, and during each visit people are allowed to take two outfits per person. Donations can be made at the church Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“This is God’s house,” Thompson said. “Anyone in the community can come, and some people will come from Gate City. If they come in here and identify themselves as being in need, we will help them.”