Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 21 January 2011 00:00
Kids Helping Kids by Kids Way, Inc., a local not-for-profit organization, delivered in excess of $200,000 (MSRP) in winter-related apparel in 2010 via the “Making a Warmth of Difference” winter apparel program. The donated apparel includes not just coats, but sweaters, gloves, hats, and all forms of cold-weather gear. It might seem like a good time for the organization to take a well-deserved break during the quiet post-holiday season, however, Kids Helping Kids co-founder Robert Eslick has no intention of resting on his laurels; preparations for the 2011 “Making a Warmth of a Difference” drive have already begun, with a target number of 6,000 units.
Of course, this is the same organization that was started in 1997 when Eslick’s son, Robert A.J. Eslick (the other Kids Helping Kids co-founder) ran the Long Island Half Marathon at the age of 9 to raise $11,000 dollars for a child in need; like running, being proactive seems to run in the family.
While the organization has organized many events over the years and given to many worthy causes, the two main programs Kids Helping Kids presents on an annual basis are the winter wear drive, and the Kids of Distinction Scholarship in cooperation with the Town of Oyster Bay. The drive is in its seventh year, while the scholarship is now into its sixth. While children aren’t always directly involved in every aspect of the program, helping children in some way always takes priority.
Other than the organization’s unique philanthropic pedigree, one thing that further distinguishes the Kids Helping Kids winter wear drive is the fact that the clothing is all new; the items are donated directly from the manufacturers, and kids of all ages receive brand-new clothes to wear. Eslick says that he got the idea for donating new clothes to needy children when Kids Helping Kids initially became involved in used coat drives (which he believes are valuable as well) many years ago. Seeing used merchandise go to a good cause, Eslick couldn’t help but think: Why not new?
“It starts with, you ask- and the worst that someone can say is no,” said Eslick, who has a background in the apparel industry. Now that the organization is well-established, many clothing manufacturers are inclined to say yes- and the organization is approaching new brands this year.
“When we talk about ‘making a warmth of difference’, the beneficiaries are the kids, but it does make a world of difference because it helps their families economically- that they don’t have to go out and spend these kinds of dollars on this kind of apparel,” said Eslick.
There is a consequence to the great success of the program; Eslick’s Old Bethpage home is overflowing with boxes of clothes for part of the year. While others have offered space for the donations, Eslick is reluctant to accept, because moving the merchandise makes it that much harder to keep track of; he has to know what’s in every box, and the organization on the receiving end must know as well. From a logistical perspective, it’s not always fun, as he freely admits, but he is ready for the challenge.
Kids Helping Kids by Kids Way Inc. has worked with several Nassau County agencies in need of this apparel so those most in need will benefit. Some of the agencies that benefited from this past year’s donations include The INN, Circulo de la Hispanidad, The Salvation Army, Mercy First in Syosset, Education & Assistance Corporation, Hispanic Counseling Center, Nassau County Social Services, and St Christopher Ottilie.
Bob Ringel, Kids Helping Kids apparel program coordinator, helped secure winter apparel from major brands like MECCA, Akademiks, US Polo, AND-1, Nike, Air Jordan, Levis and Sketchers. “This would not have been possible without the generous donations from importers such as Mecca 5 Star-Albert Pardo and High Life Apparel-Issac Levy, who have gone above and beyond what we could have ever expected in donations,” said Ringel.
Other importers include Adjmi Apparel Group, Long Street, Haddad Brands, Silver Goose and G & W Industries. The organization also credits Claudio Zarate, owner of Empire Bakery Equipment and Angelo Giannuzzi, owner of TESORO Restaurant, for their financial support, and has special appreciation for Joe DiFiore, owner of Monreale Bakery in Hicksville, for his donation of the trucks to make all of the deliveries.
While the Making a Warmth of a Difference campaign is gearing up for the new year, Eslick is thinking of adding something new to the program; getting the kids more involved by having them write letters to apparel companies. In this manner, he thinks it will help the kids to learn new skills, like letter-writing and following up on an inquiry- a kind of “help” very different from providing a warm sweater, but a kind that many kids can benefit from.
“That’s kind of what I like to do when we do programs; it’s not just “Oh here, go sell a candy bar for a dollar.”
In the same way, Eslick thinks that for kids who are recipients of the program, in addition to just some free (albeit important) gear, the kids may take away an important lesson about the importance of helping others- all the more effective than a speech on the importance of giving from an authority figure, because actions speak louder than words.
Other than preparing for the next deluge of coats, hats and gloves to hit the Eslick family home, the organization will be busy with the next round of Kids of Distinction in the spring; the judging committee will sit down in April to select middle and high-school aged candidates for scholarship awards, ranging from $500-$1,000, for service to their community.