Martin’s closed to the public late in the afternoon for the Anniston Kiwanis Club’s 29th annual Back-to-School Shopping event. Club president Mel Malkove said that this year DHR had been expected to send a record 120 Calhoun County students entering pre-K through sixth grade to buy clothes for a new year.
“I guess because of the economy,” Malkove said. “Last year we only had 103.”
As the students entered the store, each was paired with a Kiwanis member or volunteer for a one-on-one shopping trip.
“The idea is no hand-me-downs or raggedy clothes to go back to school,” Malkove explained.
Starting at 5 p.m., parents waited in the store’s glass entryway as their kids darted through the racks like it was Christmas morning. Children were allowed entry only in small groups to prevent overcrowding the store.
Each student was allotted $180 to spend on shoes and clothing. The volunteers helped steer the wide-eyed shoppers away from high-priced sneakers and items not appropriate to wear to school so they would get the most bang for their buck.
“They go straight to the shoes,” Malkove said. “They would spend the whole amount on a pair of Nikes if you let them.”
Funds for the event are provided by the Kiwanis’ annual pancake breakfast held each March. According to Malkove, this year’s fundraiser raised $46,000, the largest amount the breakfast has ever pulled in and $3,000 more than last year’s breakfast.
Grace Baptist Church in Oxford provided each child in attendance with a backpack filled with school supplies and a cookie on their way out the door. Martin’s in Oxford, which has hosted the event since its inception 29 years ago, gave shoppers a 20 percent discount on their purchases, which were also tax free.
On average, Malkove estimated that most children walk away with a new pair of shoes, five tops, five pairs of shorts or pants and five pairs of socks and underwear.
Late in the afternoon, a kindergartner from Wellborn approached the cashier worried she had too many clothes in her basket and would have to put something back. When she instead learned she had nine dollars left to spend, the tiny five-year-old looked up in disbelief then took off running, returning a moment later with a baby blue Hello Kitty T-shirt in hand.
“Remember we forgot about this one,” she said out of breath. “This was one of my favorites.”
She struggled with the oversized plastic bag containing her new treasures as she made her way to her brother and grandmother waiting for her outside.
“Look, I got Sketchers,” she told them excitedly about her shoes. “I’ve never had Sketchers before.”