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Plan Your Costume Drive Now

My family had a Garage Sale this weekend, and it felt good to clean-out. One thing, however, that I did not feature for sale were my children's outgrown Halloween costumes. I feel the same way about costumes I feel about clothes -- they should be donated to someone who could use and enjoy them.

Between the store-bought costumes, the gorgeous home-made ones, and the old dance costumes my daughter wore at recitals, we could get a whole family or two dressed for Halloween. Then, I thought how every one of my friends must be in the same situation. Do they feel the same way as I do about Halloween costumes? Will they want to donate them to children in need? Will they even know how to donate them, who to call?

I decided that I would make the effort to run a costume drive. Together with my children and maybe our Girl Scout Troop, we'll get in touch with all of our friends and neighbors. We'll ask them to set aside any costumes they can no longer use and get them to us so we can get them to children who can use them.

Why not do the same? Gather your Girl Scout or Boy Scout Troop, religious group, civic class, or other group and conduct a costume drive. Make some phone calls and find a local charity or county department that can receive your donations. Then, post flyers, send out press releases, and e-mail notes to everyone you know. Host a drop-off day at your home or local community center, where your group of volunteers can sort the costumes by size, make sure they are clean and have all the necessary pieces, and bag them and mark them.

But, a costume drive is not the only way to donate those old costumes. Here are some other ideas for you to consider.

1. Make a call to the local County Department of Health and Human Services. Ask them for names and numbers of shelters that house children, or foster family contacts that could help get costumes into the right hands.
2. If there is a town or two in your general area that tends to be underprivileged, get in touch with the school system in that town. Most likely, the administrators in these schools are very aware of the children most in need, and would be happen to distribute your costumes to needy children.
3. Call your local hospital and ask them to put you in touch with the folks at its low-income clinic. Again, the nurses who care for needy children will know instantly if anyone can use a donated costume. If the hospital does not have a low-income clinic, ask to speak to the manager of the Pediatric Unit. Perhaps there are some children hospitalized during Halloween who would enjoy your costumes.
4. In this economy, many people have lost their jobs. If you know someone who has fallen on tough times, make a phone call and offer your costumes to their children. Or, ask around to all of your friends and family in case they might know someone in need.
5. Contact your local Ronald McDonald House, Salvation Army, or Good Will organization. These, too, are great resources in identifying those in your community most in need.
6. You can always Freecycle your unused costumes. Check out Freecycle to see if there is a Freecycle group in your area. A lot of folks who use Freecycle have very little means to purchase anything new, and they'd be happy to pick-up your costumes.

Halloween may not be the holiday that’s filled with “spirit,” at least not the spirit of giving that is associated with the winter holidays. But don’t underestimate your ability to help those in need, even at Halloween.

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