Annual shopping spree readies kids for school

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Sierra del Mar Division partners with Mervyns to help kids get ready for school.

by Suzi Woodruff Lacey –

A volunteer helps a child undergoing cancer treatment shop for new school clothes at Mervyns at the ChildSpree event in Murrieta. [Photo by Suzi Woodruff Lacey]

To help families prepare for the new school year, The Salvation Army in the Sierra del Mar Division worked with Mervyn’s, community donors and volunteers to take underprivileged children shopping for new clothes.

At the Mervyn’s store in Murrieta, Calif., 200 volunteers shopped with 200 needy children at the annual Child Spree event. With the $125 per child contributed by community partners and the many discounts Mervyn’s provided, children were able to get the items they needed.

“I love the times when we can bring the donor face to face with the people we are helping,” said Major LeAnn Trimmer, Murrieta corps officer with her husband Darren. “For the people who support us, they see that they are helping their neighbors. We talk about economic problems; this humanizes it.”

Six Sierra del Mar corps participated in the annual event: Murrieta, Cathedral City, Ontario, Riverside, San Diego and Victorville. In total, more than 600 children received back to school assistance.

Families, who were screened to ensure genuine need, started lining up outside Mervyn’s as early as 6 a.m. on the day of the event. A Salvation Army canteen provided hot coffee, water and pastries for the volunteers and the parents, who waited outside while their children shopped.

A Mervyn’s spokesperson said the goal of the event is for children to start school feeling positive rather than out of place in worn-out clothes; this contributes to children valuing school and believing they can succeed.

Sometimes the obstacles children face are overwhelming.

Skylar has a nerve disorder. His mom, Matresa, had to leave her job as an x-ray technician.

“I wouldn’t have been able to get school clothes for my three children Omar, Jordan and Skylar without The Salvation Army,” Lee said. “We’ve gone to the corps and they’ve helped us in so many other ways too. The Salvation Army is a blessing.”

Jonathan’s family had moved to Murrieta because of a promised job. After the job fell through, the family spent the next four months living in a van. Without The Salvation Army, Jonathan would have started school wearing the old clothes he had clearly outgrown.

At the Child Spree event, Jonathan’s mom couldn’t wait to thank the Trimmers and to share the family’s good news after four months, Jonathan’s dad had found a job!

“Our community never fails us! We ask for help and support for those in need and volunteers and donors are always there,” said Major Darren Trimmer. “Everything we do, we do in the name of Jesus. We see miracles, stories like Jonathan’s family, every day!”

And then there was the 16-year-old who was embarrassed to accept help and told her mom she thought the whole thing was stupid, but afterwards she came to her mom and said, “This was amazing. They made me feel really special! How can I come back next year to volunteer and help other kids?”

“A number of the children come from group homes,” Major LeAnn Trimmer pointed out. “They could easily feel displaced, unloved and unwanted, but the caring attention they got here shows them that they are loved! This is The Salvation Army in action meeting human needs in his name.”

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