Ray Miller’s Clothes for Kids
Oct 24, 2019 11:00AM
● By Enjoy Magazine
Story by Rachel Trigueiro
OVER THE PAST 15 years, approximately 9,000 kids in Visalia Unified School District have received a sweatshirt because Ray Miller saw an opportunity.
A former school psychologist, Miller met with kids regularly, and during one meeting in the middle of winter, a high school student showed up in a T-shirt. Miller learned the student didn’t own a sweatshirt. “That moment was the catalyst for sparking this desire to meet a need for kids in the community,” Miller says.
Initially, Miller asked for teachers’ involvement to raise donations to purchase new sweatshirts for students. “I started by shopping at the Quiksilver sample sale at the distribution center and it was sold by the pound. I did this for a couple years and asked teachers if they’d pitch in.”
Miller soon realized the potential and began reaching out to local service clubs. He recalls his first opportunity speaking at the Breakfast Rotary. The club donated $500 to his drive and as members left the meeting, inspired by his vision, they slipped him their own cash, adding up to another $500.
Since then, many clubs have partnered with him: County Center Rotary, Downtown Rotary, Breakfast Lions, West Visalia Kiwanis and this year’s biggest donor, Visalia Rotary Community Foundation. These clubs have poured thousands of dollars annually into Clothes for Kids in order to see local children warm in winter.
Roughly 70 percent of the sweatshirts Miller purchases are for younger kids. “We stick with hoodies. It seems they are the most needed in our area and I can’t seem to buy enough for the elementary school aged kids.”
Miller, with the help of his wife Rene, buys sweatshirts throughout the year when stores are having their best sales. Shopping mostly at Old Navy, he also purchases hoodies from The Children’s Place and Aéropostale. With different costs from each store, the sweatshirts average out to $9 a piece. He estimates he will give around 1,100 hoodies to kids this year.
The clothing drive happens once a year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In past years, Miller took the donations to school sites and set up in a classroom. However, for the last five years, Gary Amon, who owns a large warehouse facility, offered Miller the back part of his building to be used as a distribution area.
After the clothes have been purchased and they’re ready for pickup, Miller sends an email to the principals in the district with distribution days and times. At least 33 schools participate in the clothing drive for their students. Initially, schools are given 25 hoodies each. Once all the schools have had an opportunity, Miller will donate what’s left to the elementary schools most in need.
The community can make donations, too. “Some kids say they have never had a new sweatshirt, only hand-me-downs, so we really want all donations to be new with tags,” he says. Cash donations are also accepted, payable to Visalia Education Foundation.
Donations are not the only option for supporting Miller. Volunteers are needed to sort hoodies by age and gender, then fold and stack accordingly. Sorting 1,000 clothing items can be time-consuming for one person, but Miller recalls in previous years, groups of organizations or friends volunteered at the warehouse. Making it a fun evening with food and drink, the volunteers had all the hoodies sorted and folded within three hours. •
Ray Miller • Clothes for Kids • (559) 740-8355