The United Way of Eagle River Valley is the latest local organization faced with a COVID-19 conundrum.
Organizers couldn’t support placing Eagle Valley Rummage Sale volunteers and shoppers at risk of contracting the disease by planning large work events or sale days. At the same time, they were worried about the economic effect of canceling the sale on community members who depend on the event to outfit kids heading into the school year.
Those concerns coalesced into a unique solution — the Youth Closet and Toy Chest.
The temporary shopping site — located behind Subway in the Northstar Center in Edwards — is open three days and one evening a week by appointment only through Friday, Aug. 14. Prospective shoppers need to register for a specific shopping time.
When shoppers arrive at their appointed time, they are allowed to choose five tops and five bottom articles of clothing and two pairs of shoes per child. The sale will also limit shoppers to one set of winter wear — coat, boots, snow pants, gloves and hat — per child and one set of towels, one blanket, one pillow and one set of sheets per child. As for toys, books and other supplies, there isn’t a specific limit.
Prospective donors can assist with the closet operations by leaving items outside the sale site. Closet volunteers will bring in donations and quarantine items for one week before placing them on the shopping floor. The closet is currently accepting the following items, and these items only, for donation:
- Infant-youth clothes, pajamas and winter clothes
- Child/youth shoes
- Toys & youth sporting goods
- All baby supplies
- Child/youth towels
- Child/youth blankets
- Child/youth pillows
Free for all
The closet program’s stated mission is “to provide free school clothing and parenting supplies, so our local families, who are struggling to meet their basic needs in these difficult times, can stretch their limited income for other basic necessities such as food, shelter, and medicine.” United Way of Eagle River Valley Executive Director Rebecca Kanaly is proud of that declaration and committed to making it happen.
“We just didn’t feel right about charging right now with so many people working so hard to keep a roof over their heads,” Kanaly said.
She noted the idea of a youth closet program was first floated last year and volunteers saved the youth clothing from the 2019 rummage sale in anticipation of launching the program. In retrospect, that was a fortuitous decision because those donations have provided the initial youth closet inventory.
The closet has a 2,000-square-foot space for its temporary operation and volunteers and United Way staff have been able to observe COVID-19 precautions as they set up the sales floor. As shoppers begin scheduling their times, Kanaly noted that no more than five people will be inside the site at any given time. There is a series of safety protocols in place for the closet operation:
- All clients, staff and volunteers must wear a mask while in the building.
- Only one person from each family will be allowed onto the shopping floor.
- No children will be allowed on the shopping floor.
- Clients must sanitize hands prior to shopping.
- Dressing rooms will be closed.
- Keep a social distance of at least 6 feet from others when able.
- Shopping must be completed in 30 minutes and reminders will be given.
And, as with all outings in Eagle County, shoppers who are ill with a fever, cough or other COVID-10 symptoms or who have been in contact with someone who is exhibiting these symptoms, are asked to remain at home.
As she looks over the closet offerings, Kanaly said the biggest need right now is for winter coats, gloves and hats.
“We have a hard time getting enough of those items. If I could put out a call, it would be for that stuff,” she said.
To learn more, visit unitedwayeagle.org/youth-closet.