Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Steve Aragon remembers what it was like to be one of those kids from an economically disadvantaged family, who didn’t have the proper clothing or shoes for school.
What he did have was access to organizations that took kids to local department stores and bought them clothes so they could go to school, look good and feel good about themselves.
Today, Steve and his wife, Patricia Aragon, are the owners of six Albuquerque McDonald’s restaurants.
When they learned that Macy’s was donating $2,500 to the nonprofit clothing bank, Locker #505, so needy kids could buy new clothing at the department store, the Aragons first thought was to match the donation.
“But then we reached out to the other McDonald’s owner-operators in the county and before you knew it, they all wanted in,” Patricia Aragon said.
Collectively, eight owner-operator organizations donated $6,000 on top of the Macy’s donation – enough to give 68 students $125 gift certificates for the Sunday shopping spree at the department store.
“I’ve been there, I was one of those kids,” said Steve Aragon, who as a child attended Valle Vista Elementary School in the South Valley. “We’re really blessed because we’ve come full circle and now we can give back and provide for these kids,” he said.
The students were selected via a random lottery by folks at Locker #505, where all the students have previously received clothing, said Kim Kerschen, founder and director of Locker #505. To become eligible for “shopping” at the clothing bank, located at 6020 Constitution NE, students must receive a referral from school teachers or counselors, social workers or organizations that work with kids.
Each of the kids on the Sunday Macy’s outing also got the assistance of a volunteer personal shopper to help them select appropriate clothing according to the students own wants and needs, said Kerschen.
“We found 68 people who were willing to spend a couple of hours in the morning with the kids, shopping and chatting and just hanging out with them,” she said.
Locker #505 was founded in 2014 as a clothing bank for needy kids in Bernalillo County. It was set up to duplicate the experience of shopping in a store, with clothing bank volunteers assisting in the role of sales clerk.
“That first year we saw a little over 400 students. Last year we saw 1,600 kids, and we’ve seen 1,100 so far this year since August, so I’m pretty sure we’re going to be over 2,000 by the end of the year,” Kerschen said.
Most of the clothing Locker #505 has in its inventory is donated and gently used, although socks, underwear and shoes are purchased new and paid for with cash donations. The organization’s annual budget is about $200,000.
“We survive because of the community,” Kerschen aid. “We don’t get money from Albuquerque Public Schools, we don’t get money from the city. We just recently got some money from Bernalillo County and we’ve written some grants. Mostly, our donations come from businesses and private citizens who want to make sure the kids are taken care of. We exist because the community wants us to.”
Editor’s note: The caption above has been updated to correct an error.