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PARTIES FROM THE HEART

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by Mary MacRae Warren

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    When Joyce Jabbour's daughter was turning 11, she asked to go on a shopping spree with friends to celebrate. Ellie got her wish.  But her mom was left feeling there must be a more meaningful way to mark the occasion. So she came up with the idea of Giving Kids — fashion parties to benefit needy kids. Jabbour, of Hastings-on-Hudson, wanted to make giving a fun and rewarding experience that would carry over into adulthood — without parental finger-wagging.

   "Too many kids at this age tend to be a little self-absorbed," Jabbour says of the fashion party concept, many years in the making. "This was a way for them to help kids just like themselves who might live on the other side of town — not kids who are destitute… but somebody they might pass on the street every day."

   Now, for $360, up to 20 tweens get to party and pull together hip outfits to donate to needy kids who could use a fashion boost without the big-ticket price tags. During the two-hour fashion parties held at the Giving Kids center, the girls work as a creative team, "shopping" from an inventory of gently used and new clothing donated to the center.  They put together a wardrobe of outfits for a particular gender, age, size and season. Once the collection is mixed and matched, the party-goers break for cake and goodies. (Parents can bring in their own spread or have food catered in). Then they pack up their fashions, enclosing sketches and gift cards for the recipient.  The gift box is eventually taken to an area charity for delivery to one particular needy child.

   To get the party started, Jabbour approached local consignment shop owner, Dana Bos, whose Milk Money sells stylish, gently-used clothing at historic Moviehouse Mews, also in Hastings.  Bos, whose recycling philosophy includes giving back to the community, decided to let Jabbour shop until she dropped.  "I gave her the keys to the store," says Bos.  "She spent a whole day here and left with gigantic bags full of clothes."  And since Milk Money's inventory includes desirable brands such as Oilily, Hanna Andersson, babyGap, Ralph Lauren, Old Navy, Gymboree, Baby Lulu, Flapdoodles, and Lands' End, Jabbour had quite a selection.

   Bos has an agreement with her consignees that unsold end-of-season clothing be donated to charity, but beyond that she now encourages her clients who have clothing that is in great shape but not suited to her consignment demographic to donate directly to the Giving Kids program.  She connects regularly with Jabbour to contribute items her customers have agreed to donate. 

   "It's the whole recycling philosophy," says Bos. "It's the same thing as recycling newspapers and bottles. There are simple things you and your kids can do to save the earth." 

   Although the program is in its early stages, Jabbour says the response has been tremendous and the rewards for kids on both the giving and receiving ends are great. "Once this clicks in a kid, once she gets that wonderful feeling of doing something nice for others, she comes back for more," she believes.

   In May, the Center held its first annual clothing drive to fill up its closets and to let people know how to get involved.  Jabbour plans to expand the program offerings to include boys' parties, after-school activities, movie nights and a retail outlet for Giving Kids dolls and accessories.

   Jabbour donates through the United Way of Westchester/Putnam Gifts-In-Kind program, which acts as a clearinghouse to put donors and agencies together. 

   While most people associate this area of Westchester with affluence, a 2005 United Way study indicates there are many who struggle because of issues related to a shortage of affordable housing and child care as well as a lack of economic opportunities.

   "We think Giving Kids is a great way for our more affluent kids to understand that our county has many children for whom a gently used but fun wardrobe would be a real gift," says Lynn Honeysett, United Way senior vice-president for communications. "We also applaud parents who expose their children to the benefits of volunteering and giving to the community we all share."

   For more information on throwing your own bash or donating clothing to Giving Kids, call (914) 484-0244 or log onto www.givingkids.com. Parties can be held on Thursday afternoons from 4-6 pm, Saturdays 11am-10 pm (a special "pajama party" theme — not an actual "sleepover" — is a popular offering), and Sundays 11am-7 pm.  The center is located at 465 Broadway, Hastings.  Milk Money is located at 579 Warburton Ave., #6 Moviehouse Mews, (914) 478-4378.


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