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Dressing Days being sorted before school year has even ended

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Dressing Days volunteer Sally Cooney Anderson pulls out bins at a Stafford storage unit to inventory backpacks as she and other helpers take stock of what they have for the annual August back-to-school distribution event. / Photos by Reza Marvashti

Dressing Days volunteer Sally Cooney Anderson pulls out bins at a Stafford storage unit to inventory backpacks as she and other helpers take stock of what they have for the annual August back-to-school distribution event. / Photos by Reza Marvashti

Summer vacation hasn’t started yet but Erin Faulconer is already worrying about back-to-school clothes.

“High-waisted jeans are supposed to be in style next year, but I don’t know,” said Faulconer, one of the leaders of the annual School Dressing Days.

That event clothed more than 1,000 area students last year, and Faulconer expects to see a similar turnout this year.

Organization is key to successful Dressing Days. Items are sorted by size and sex and placed into bins along with content inventory lists.

Organization is key to successful Dressing Days. Items are sorted by size and sex and placed into bins along with content inventory lists.

The Interfaith Community Council sponsors School Dressing Days, which will take place Aug. 8 and 9. For the third year, organizers are asking people to sign up in advance, starting June 21. This will be the third year of advanced sign-ups, and Faulconer said the practice helps School Dressing Days run more smoothly.

Faulconer and a group of volunteers have started sorting the jeans, shirts, socks and underwear they’ve bought throughout the year. Those new clothes are stored in plastic tubs in a Stafford County storage unit.

Dressing Days volunteers gather at a Stafford storage unit to inventory back-to-school outfits and supplies.

Dressing Days volunteers gather at a Stafford storage unit to inventory back-to-school outfits and supplies.

Those tubs contain a variety of fashion—skinny, boot-cut and flared jeans, colorful tops and T-shirts in many styles.

Volunteers will hit up some end-of-the-season clearance sales soon, and hope to have enough new clothes for every child who signs up.

Each year, School Dressing Days gives one new outfit, new underwear and socks, a backpack and school supplies to each student who comes to the event.

In the past, the outreach included used clothes. But as the numbers of students in need grew, volunteers became overwhelmed with the chore of sorting used clothes.

“And there are many other places to get used clothes these days,” Faulconer said.

In the past 33 years, the event has changed quite a bit.

In 1971, Stafford County resident Gladys Ferguson visited area schools, looking for children whose families couldn’t afford new clothes. She took the list back to the Interfaith Community Council, and School Dressing Days began.

“I would see little children go to school, and they didn’t have proper clothes,” Ferguson said in 2009. “To me, it was very important to give them proper clothes so they feel like other children.”

The first event clothed 68 children. For nearly 20 years, Ferguson stored plastic bins of underwear and socks in her living room.

The event itself was a bit of controlled chaos. Organizers never knew how many people would come—or what sizes they would need.

On the second day, volunteers often ended up shopping for more clothes to fill the need.

In the past few years, the event drew crowds—and people often waited in line for hours to get clothes.

These days, preregistration allows organizers to schedule participants and eliminate the wait.

And volunteers can sign up online, preventing the last-minute scramble to fill a slot. The event also has a website and a Facebook page.

Amy Umble: 540/735-1973

aumble@freelancestar.com

NEED HELP?

School Dressing Days is open to families living in the counties of Spotsylvania, Stafford, King George and Caroline and the city of Fredericksburg. It will take place Aug. 8 and 9 at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on Bragg Road. To participate, preregister during one of these opportunities:

JUNE 21: LDS Church 1710 Bragg Road, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

JULY 2: Fredericksburg United Methodist Church, 308 Hanover St., 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

JULY 12: LDS Church, 10 a.m.

to 1 p.m.

JULY 16: Fredericksburg United Methodist Church, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

JULY 26: Fredericksburg United Methodist Church, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

AUG. 2: LDS Church, 10 a.m.

to 1 p.m.

Bring ID for each child and proof of address.

WANT TO HELP?

School Dressing Days needs volunteers, especially those who speak Spanish. To sign up, go to signupgenius.com, click on “find a signup,” then enter schooldressingdays@gmail.com.

To donate to the effort, write checks to Interfaith Community Council with School Dressing Days in the memo line and send to Box 1336, Fredericksburg, Va. 22402.

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