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CHILDSPREE: Disadvantaged kids get new duds at Mervyn's

August 11, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

Cassandra Espinosa, 11, a self-described tomboy, wasn't too sure about adding skirts to her wardrobe but by the end of Mervyn's ninth annual ChildSpree in El Centro on Saturday a purple skirt was among the items in her shopping cart.

ChildSpree provided Cassandra and 50 other economically disadvantaged kids the opportunity to take home back-to-school clothes and shoes at no cost to the kids or their families.

"Our creed is to do whatever we can for youth," said Nancie Rhodes, Sunrise Optimist Club of Imperial Valley board member and ChildSpree coordinator.

"This is perfect for our creed," Rhodes said as another small group of kids headed into the shoe department to pick out new footwear.


ChildSpree is intended not only to provide these kids with new clothing but with the self-esteem that comes from wearing new clothes.

"There are some kids who've never had brand new clothes," Rhodes said.

When Rhodes began coordinating the event four years ago, seven kids went on the shopping spree. Rhodes says she'd like to reach 100 kids at a future ChildSpree.

This national event was sponsored locally by Mervyn's, Sunrise Optimist Club, Court Appointed Special Advocates, Brawley Boys and Girls Club, Police Athletic League and the Imperial County Sheriff's Activities League.

Mervyn's provided matching funds for some of the participants and extra money was raised to allow additional children to shop. Every participant took home a backpack and $100 worth of clothing and shoes.

Calexico resident Ben Horton acted as chaperone to help Cassandra pick out her new clothes.

"I thought it would be a good thing to do. It gives you a chance to interact with these kids," Horton said.

"Just for the amount of time you're with these kids you try to instill something in them," Horton said.

Wearing a pair of shorts, Cassandra took Horton's advice to "balance her wardrobe" and brought over a skirt to show him.

"But do you like it?" Horton asked her. "That's the important thing."

Cassandra, about to start sixth grade at Brawley's Phil Swing school, smiled brightly, nodded her head in the affirmative and hurried back among the racks to search out more clothes.

Cassandra, who said she likes to play sports such as basketball and tennis, figured there was a place for a skirt in her closet.

"I can wear it to church sometimes," she said.

Conceding that she likes to shop, Cassandra said she was taking more from the experience than clothing: the knowledge "that people are nice."

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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