PENDLETON — When the charitable organization Outfitters Inc. first opened in 2005, the idea was to help provide certain South Madison Community School Corp. families with children’s clothing during the school year and summer.
Leaders of the operation have served more students recently than in its first 14 years of the operation, they said.
Outfitters helps families who qualify for the free and reduced food program; it helped more than 800 families this year and 945 students last year.
In addition to the assistance for local school students, the program is growing and needs donations.
It has branched out to provide clothing to local infants at an alternative women’s shelter, and it has plans to start assisting students in the Anderson Community School Corp.
“We just want everyone to know we are still here, going strong and helping a lot of people,” Outfitters Director Tammy Powell said.
Outfitters Inc., 880 S. Pendleton Ave., operates on donations only. It conducts an annual gala each year to raise funds to pay the two-person staff but relies heavily on the community to provide the clothing and shoes for those in need.
The store is set up like a regular retail store. Parents work through school officials, setting up a time with Outfitters for the family to go in to shop during the back-to-school season and spring and summer.
They store is open from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and Saturday mornings until about noon.
Outfitters provides family members with one week’s worth of clean, quality clothing and shoes. It includes five pairs of pants, five shirts, seven pairs of underwear, socks and a new and used pair of shoes, all for free.
“We have a rule here. If I wouldn’t put my own child in it, we don’t put it out here for your child to wear,” Powell said.
If patrons can find a hat, a pair of gloves, dresses, a winter coat, they can take those, operations assistant Maddy Trump said.
Trump said her work at the store is personal and holds positive meaning. Trump, 20, is a 2014 Pendleton Heights High School graduate and a former Outfitters shopper when she was in third grade.
“We got vouchers because my mom was a single mom back at that time,” Trump said. “It really helped us until we got settled and didn’t need the service anymore.”
When she was in high school, Trump began volunteering her time at the shop; she began work at Outfitters last year.
“It just means a lot to me; being able to come in here and see the kids come in every day and get what they need is special,” she said.
Powell encouraged people to donate as much as they can, whenever they can.
All unused items are sent, through a nearby church to Haiti, where charitable organizations see it gets put to good use.
“Anything we (receive) is getting used by someone, somewhere,” Powell said.
Outfitters is in need of new and gently used clothing, but with its new expansion, helping more groups, it particularly needs clothing for young girls, small to extra-large tops, short and long sleeves, along with boys’ and men’s jeans and all kinds of infant wear; it always needs new socks and underwear.
There is a donation drop box outside the store if people can’t get to the store during business hours.
Powell praised community members for their donations and volunteer service hours. She said Outfitters has a large group of dedicated people who give of their time and goods to make sure area students have the clothing and shoes they need.