MODESTO — Toting red plastic shopping baskets that in a few cases they could have squeezed into themselves, 40-plus Stanislaus County children had a back-to-school shopping spree Thursday morning thanks to The Salvation Army and Target.
The outings were held at the Target stores on Sisk Road in Modesto and on Countryside Drive in Turlock, which provided each child with an $81 gift card. The participating kids were selected by staff at the army's Turlock Corps Community Center and the Modesto Citadel Red Shield Community Center. They're from "families who are experiencing especially difficult times and could really use a little relief in their back-to-school budgets," said Laine J. Hendricks, public relations director for the army's Golden State Division.
At the Modesto store Thursday, the 20 young shoppers were entering preschool through sixth grade, said Lt. Dustin Rowe, who runs the Red Shield Center with his wife, Lt. Caroline Rowe. "We have a chance to see the kids, to observe the state of their clothes, and if their shoes are falling apart," he said about how children were selected.
Parents may accompany their children, or supply a list of needs and sizes. "If there's no list, we go for the basics a pair of shoes, a couple of shirts, a pair of pants," Rowe said. Almost all the kids at the Modesto store also are in line to receive from the army a free backpack filled with school supplies, so the focus Thursday really was on clothes.
The kids were helped with their shopping by Target staff and Salvation Army representatives, who helped ensure smart purchases while still allowing the kids to have fun. "It's about getting the most bang for the buck," Rowe said. "Last year, we encouraged kids to try to add it (the cost of the items they were buying) up themselves to see how they were doing."
Happy to be helping
Reyes Rodriguez, a Target executive team leader, was a shopper chaperone last year and was happy to be helping again. "It's fun to watch the kids size each other up to see what they're getting," he said.
Rodriguez had the week's store ad tucked into his pocket to help steer children to good buys. "Sometimes they draw a line, though they're not getting out of the store without" that special something they really want, he said. If he's helping kids like that, he tries to let them use $10 to $15 for the treat, with the rest going toward what they really need.
Tyler Baer, nearly 8, had one of those special somethings in mind Thursday, but knew he'd have to do without. "I can't get it because it's a toy," said the second- grader at Adkison Elementary in Ceres. He was content with the shoes he found and was looking for jeans and blue shirts.
Rodriguez gets a kick out of the littlest ones, like the boy last year who grabbed shoes, shirts and pants he liked regardless of the fact they all were way too big for him. When Rodriguez questioned his choices, the boy tried on a shoe, which dwarfed his foot, and said, "See, it fits."
The kids this Thursday appeared to be making no such impulse buys. A couple of older girls perused the shoes but decided they didn't need anything new, and their money would be better spent on something else.
And even at just 10 years old, Octavio Romero showed he's on his way to being a serious, smart shopper. He pointed out shoes priced at $24.99 and explained that when you round it up, that's really $25. And he knew he'd pay more at the checkstand than the total cost of his purchased items, though he didn't know the name of the extra charge sales tax.
But for younger kids, Thursday still was all about fun.
Seven-year-old Danyel Reynolds, a second-grader at Chathom School, was shopping for "something very cute." She knew she wanted a shirt and pants, and as for color, said, "Rainbow and stuff."
Danyel loved showing off the shoes she picked out: high-top sneakers with pink laces. She said to Tyler, "I dare you to get girls shoes."
"No disgusting," he shot back.
Meanwhile, Carlos Enrique-Gonzalez, 4, was filling his basket to start preschool in style. He got a pair of black high tops with red laces (though those laces will have to be swapped out per school restrictions on gang colors), some pants and shorts and a few T-shirts. Though it was hard to get a word out of Carlos, he indicated that a Mario Bros. tee beat out one with a glow-in-the-dark Lego Ninjago image as his first-day-of-school choice.
Bee Local News Editor Deke Farrow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2327.
At least two opportunities are ahead for children to receive free backpacks filled with school supplies:
The Latino Community Roundtable of Stanislaus County is distributing backpacks and school supplies Sunday to children in need. The giveaway begins at 9 a.m. at the Ceres Drive-In Flea Market, 1651 E. Whitmore Ave. Preregistration for free backpacks is required. To learn more, call Maggie Mejia, (209) 303-2664; Jorge Perez, (209) 595-9654; Rosalinda Vierra, (209) 988-4901; Tony Madrigal, (209) 579-4776; or Joseph Sanchez, (209) 534-1211.
Today is the last day to donate backpacks and supplies for the Volunteers of America's annual Operation Backpack campaign. Donations can be taken to the Stanislaus County Office of Education, Tri Counties Bank, Mocse Credit Union, the Modesto Police Department and some Starbucks locations. For more information, go to www.stancoe.org/go/backpack or call Victor Serrato, director of Operation Backpack, at (209) 238-1506.