There's no way around it, kids grow like weeds. One day you're cuffing their pants because they drag on the ground and the next they are 2 inches too short. Sometimes clothes have barely been worn before it's time to get rid of them because they simply don't fit any more. Wouldn't it be great if there was a way you could somehow put those clothes to good use? Well, it turns out that a group of people had the same thought and created the Okinawa Kids Clothing Swap.
[caption id="attachment_775" align="aligncenter" width="480"] Founded by Annastasia McPherson and joined by Sarah Cardio.
Current coordinators are Kristina Trujillo, Kristy Wells, Elaine Wang, and Courtney Walinski.[/caption]
What exactly is the Okinawa Kids Clothing Swap? In a nutshell it's an event that happens every 3 months where you can bring the clothes that your kids no longer have use for and swap with others who have done the same. Great idea right? Top it off with some super organized individuals who run the group and you have yourself a really great program.
It all started in April of 2009 when a military spouse who was stationed here in Okinawa put together the swap. At the time the group consisted of only about 12 people who met to swap clothes on Camp Foster. This, however, quickly grew to the large event that it is today and consequentially needed to move to a larger venue to accommodate all of the interest.
"How do I get started?"
Before you run into your closet and pull out everything that you would like to bring to the next clothing swap there are some things that you'll need to know. First of all you're going to have to go over to the Okinawa Kids Clothing Swap Yahoo Group and register as a member which you can do by clicking here. This page has boatloads of information for you to read and to get you on the right track to participating in the next swap. You can also check out the Okinawa Kids Clothing Swap Facebook Fan Page where you can not only get links to important information but communicate with others who are participating in the swap. I myself have check out the Facebook page and WOW! The great people over at Okinawa Kids Clothing Swap also would like to stress that if you have any questions ASK AWAY! They do a great job of giving you all the information you need.
Once you are registered it's time to get all of your clothes prepared for the event. I spoke with the coordinators over at the Okinawa Kids Clothing Swap who explained that this is the most important thing for participants to do before bring clothes to the swap. Premie/newborn through children's large clothing is accepted (sorry they do not accept juniors). You're going to have to sort and label clothing by gender, size and include your last name on each bag. You must double-check for stains, holes, excessive wear, and make sure that all buttons and/or zippers work. It is also asked that you do your best to bring only clothes which are in "like new" or "gently used" condition. Not only will this ensure that the standard of the swapped clothes is high but it also assists the volunteers from having to do unnecessary work. Once this is done clothes are then dropped off at Kadena Elementary school, in the cafeteria, Friday before the swap (5-6PM) and Saturday morning before the swap (8-11AM). It is kindly requested that those with more than 50 items drop off clothes before 10AM and that those who participate bring no more than 100 items total.
"What can I expect at one of these swaps?"
[caption id="attachment_776" align="alignright" width="300"] This is no little swap. There are LOTS of clothes to pick from![/caption]
After you have dropped off your clothes you are free to leave and return at 12:30 to sign in and receive a credit total for the items you have brought to be swapped. This is done all by volunteers who sort and count your clothes as well as double-check to ensure that clothes meet their "gently used" standards. They will then fill out a form with your name and the total count of items accepted. If your item is not accepted because it does not meet the "gently used" standards you can choose to receive your item back or have it put into a "free" pile. For those of you who are first time swappers and might wonder why what you brought was not accepted the great people of Okinawa Kids Clothing Swap have thought of that. They will give you your items back and show you why they were not accepted.
The swap itself starts at 1pm at which time some announcements are made and then swappers can check out what items are available. Clothing is separated on tables by gender and size which makes things very easy for swappers. The event itself is quite fast paced and by 2:30PM most of the swappers have already checked out. 90 MINUTES! That pretty much means that there is no leisurely browsing once the event gets started so you should probably know exactly what you are looking for!
You can use all your credits at one time or you have the option of having unused credits carry over for 2 future swaps after which they will expire. Once you choose your items you can then go a check out where volunteers will count the items and record the number of items taken. Then that's it! You can go on your merry way and continue on with your day.
Volunteers are always needed!
These types of events and organizations are great but it's no secret that they don't run themselves. The Okinawa Kids Clothing Swap is 100% volunteer run and organized. This is part of the reason that the event is free to those who want to participate. They also welcome any donations of resources to help keep the event going strong! One of the ways that can help is to volunteer some of your time. Here's that the Okinawa Kids Clothing Swap told us about what it's like to volunteer for a swap:
We will have 3 shifts this swap. Friday late afternoon, Saturday morning, and Saturday afternoon. Friday will be a 2 hour shift for unloading of the stored swap clothes and setup. Saturday morning will be a 4 hour shift from 0800-1200 for clothing checkin, reviewing, and placing on tables. Saturday afternoon will be a 4 hour shift from 1200-1600, and will run the check out tables and assist in filtering out expired clothing, counting items for record keeping, and packing left over clothes back up into our space bag totes.
And just because you're volunteering doesn't mean that there aren't perks:
All swap-participating volunteers receive 10 PREPICKS! This means that if you volunteer, you must be present at 1215 at the swap location to go pick out 10 items to take home before the swap opens. You get FIRST PICKS of all the new swap items, 10 of them, (as long as you have 10 credits to use). This is our way of saying THANK YOU for volunteering and helping to keep our swap running free and smoothly as a service to all military families on Okinawa. We will provide a letter of appreciation and a certificate if needed for your volunteer service hours.
If you are interested in volunteering you can contact the Okinawa Kids Clothing Swap through Facebook.
At first glance I loved the idea of the Okinawa Kids Clothing Swap but it honestly wasn't until I took some time to read more into it and talk with the folks over there that it really started to shine. Looking at some of the online resources and seeing the amount of effort and work that has gone into that alone was great but then to hear how much the volunteers put into this and how many people participate really sold me on how great this is which is why I wanted to highlight Okinawa Kids Clothing Swap for those of you who might be reading this blog.
I would also like to add a special thanks to the people over at the Okinawa Kids Clothing Swap who assisted me by answering my questions. You guys are doing a great thing over there so keep up the great work!
Unfortunately I was unable to post this before the last event which happened this month (November 2012), however that give those of you who are interested in participating in the next swap plenty of time to get prepared and read all of the necessary information.