‘It makes the child feel special.’
“My heart has been with orphans, to make them feel they belong.”
NATALIE MCCALL, assistant at KR Fashions
A clothing store for kids and teens has opened on North U.S. 1 in Ormond Beach, but it’s far from typical. It may look like a store at the mall, but the clothes are free, and it’s only for kids who have a need.
KR Fashions supplies clothing to foster, orphaned and other disadvantaged children in Volusia County and surrounding areas. The kids are able to browse and pick out the clothing, and it’s quite an experience for them, according to Rachel Arazashvili, director. Some of the kids have never shopped, and many don’t even know their sizes.
“It’s a learning experience,” she said. “And it makes the child feel special.”
Arazashvili, who was a foster parent for two years and took in two homeless teens for awhile, knows there is a great need in the community.
The children must have verified needs and are referred by the Department of Children and Families, Community Partnership for Children, Guardian Ad Litem, schools, churches, group homes and other child-related social service agencies.
“Some children go under the radar,” Arazashvili said. “We reach out to middle school counselors and organizations.”
Civic organizations and HOAs get involved by raising money or donating items, and individuals can donate gently-used clothing.
Natalie McCall, Arazashvili’s assistant, said kids are often quiet and reserved when they enter the store, but then relax and start having fun. Relationships are established and the kids often keep in touch, inviting Arazashvili and McCall to their prom or sending photos.
There’s a room just for trying on prom dresses and accessories for the big night, complete with large mirror, similar to a bridal preparation room. McCall said one girl was so excited about her gown she didn’t want to take it off and was still wearing it when she left.
“We help them feel confident,” McCall said. That’s what they are lacking.”
There are poignant moments also. Arazashvili showed one boy a bicycle, and for a moment he was silent. He then said it looked like a bike that his mother had sold for crack cocaine.
A girl found a dress that reminded her of one that her dad was going to get her. He was not able to buy it before he died.
“To us it’s just a piece of clothing but it touches the lives of the children,” Arazashvili said.
A NEW DAY
KR Fashions had been closed since August, when space that Arazashvili was renting was sold. But recently, she was able to get a sponsor for the new space which is three times larger.
KR Fashions is operated by Kidds Are First, a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization that began in 2002 through Guardian ad Litem volunteer Marie Bonham, who saw a great need for children.
She and her husband collected clothes and kept them in their home.
In 2010, Arazashvili, a GAL volunteer, had the idea to open KR Fashions. She saw there were consignment stores where people raised money for kids in need, and she thought why not have a store where kids pick out their own clothes.
The Bonhams were at a recent grand re-opening event for KR Fashions.
“It’s beautiful,” John Bonham said. “They have put a great deal of work into it.”
McCall, who has been with the store for five and a half years, said her dad was an orphan for five years before being adopted, and she has welcomed orphans into her own family.
“My heart has been with orphans, to make them feel they belong,” she said. “The need is great.”
The free store is available on an appointment basis for children with a verified need.
Kidds Are First can be reached at 492-5500 or the website, kiddsarefirst.org.