Clothes Make the Kid
Whether we admit it or not, clothes are a big deal,” says Keely Brown. She’s just picked up her kids from school, and always pays attention to how children dress.
She recognizes how much it matters to adults. “When I put myself together for the day, I feel better about myself,” she says. The pressures of fitting in—or at least, not sticking out—makes clothing even more important for children.
That understanding is central to Colorful Closets, the nonprofit Brown founded with friend and fellow mom Lindsey Wing in 2017. Parents like to tell their kids that the inside counts more than the outside, but in a pre-teen and teen culture that values appearance, the reality is inner confidence begins with external appearance.
Brown saw this among her own children’s elementary school friends. Some would show up in pants that were too short or pullovers that had seen much better days. Even in higher-income parts of town, a few families fell through the cracks. “There’s poverty everywhere,” she says, from lower-income neighborhoods to schools like Puckett or Sleepy Hollow. “The family right next door could have lost everything.”
With those kids in mind, Colorful Closets gathers and prepares matching outfits for boys and girls. Sometimes the clothes are very gently used. Sometimes they are bought new. Working with local schools, they deliver the clothing to a school counselor, who quietly gives the package to the student. Since launching, the organization has grown quickly. “We went from eight deliveries a week to up to 31 a day,” Brown says. The organization serves 55 schools in Amarillo, plus Canyon, Bushland, Highland Park, and organizations like CASA, Family Support Services and Opportunity School.
Brown and Wing work out of a warehouse on Jefferson Street, but Colorful Closets accepts clothing donations at all five U.S. Cleaners locations in Amarillo and Canyon. Donors can place clothes in a bag or box labeled “Colorful Closets” and use the drive-thru window. “You don’t even have to get out of the car,” Brown says.
She asks that potential donors think of them during spring cleanouts, focusing on casual, slightly used clothes. “Kids don’t want to wear Grammy’s old clothes,” she says. “We don’t want to put another layer of rejection on top of what they’re experiencing.” In other words, they value fashionable outfits kids may have outgrown but would otherwise still wear.
With warm weather approaching, Colorful Closets specifically requests boys’ athletic shorts, short- and long-sleeve shirts for both genders, as well as full-sized toiletries including boys’ and girls’ deodorant. Learn more at colorfulclosetsama.org.