HUDSON – Heather Johnston shows each room of what Kits for Kids now calls its home.
Donations are stacked from floor to ceiling. Handmade scarves sit on kitchen chairs. There’s packages of socks, boxes of LEGOs, soaps and creams and enough toys to fill Santa’s workshop.
Johnston, along with her husband Jay and lots of volunteers, will sort, assemble and deliver these donations to local children in need.
“It’s to know that they’re loved and cared for,” said Johnston.
Some of these donations will be sent to “Network with a Purpose,” which is an event sponsored by the Marlborough Regional Chamber of Commerce taking place on Nov. 30.
Other donations will be distributed year-round to local organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of MetroWest, Employment Options Inc., Girls Inc. of Worcester, South Middlesex Opportunity Council and Carol’s Closet.
The beginnings of Kits for Kids
Johnston said she started Kits for Kids about 16 years ago, when she and her husband owned a multifamily house in Worcester. One of their tenants was a mother working three jobs to make ends meet.
“They had nothing – no furniture, the kids had no toys … I asked myself ‘what is wrong here?’” she said.
Johnston said that since the nonprofit was organized, more than 20,000 kits have been distributed.
Kits for Kids recently moved from Acorn Self-Storage, where donations had been stored for the past seven years. Johnston said it took her a year to move eight bins worth of donations to the present space, which is near downtown Hudson.
Johnston said she hopes to find suitable space in Marlborough in the near future.
The donations – and the donors
Each kit contains many comfort items, including winter clothing, toys, games and personal hygiene products. The kits are divided by age, such as baby, preschool, elementary and teen.
Kits also include sensory items such as stuffed animals, fidget spinners and monkey bands. These items help calm kids down when they’re anxious, Johnston said.
“We’re big on helping kids with sensory items,” said Johnston.
Items come from local and corporate donors. For example, Johnston said that LEGO recently donated $3,000 in toys, while Marshalls in Marlborough gave $10,000. Town Fair Tire donated $1,000, and St. Mary’s Credit Union donated teen clothing and toys for the Nov. 30 event.
Main Street Bank has also contributed to the event, and the host of Network with a Purpose, Apex Entertainment, is donating the food.
Donations have also come from Ella’s Skin Care with high-end makeup, Anytime Fitness with sports bottles and dental supplies from Michael and Aisa Dragone.
“The community has just been so supportive,” said Johnston.
‘Network with a Purpose’
The Marlborough Regional Chamber of Commerce and Kits for Kids will host the annual “Network with a Purpose” on Wednesday, Nov. 30 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Apex Entertainment, 21 Apex Drive.
The event is to build emergency comfort kits for teens in need between the ages of 13 and 18.
This is a Chamber of Commerce event, but the public is welcome to join. Registration is required via marlboroughchamber.org.
New seasonal clothing, toys and personal-care items are now being accepted. These can include scarves, winter hats, gloves, playing cards, small toys, hygiene products such as soaps, shampoos or deodorants, and $10 gift cards to local restaurants.
According to Melissa Tatten-Perry of the Chamber, the goal is to assemble and deliver 300 kits.
After assembly, the kits will be sent to the Marlborough Community Cupboard for distribution, according to Johnston.
Donations should be delivered to Apex or to the Chamber office, 11 Florence St., no later than Nov. 30.
Financial donations may be sent to Kits for Kids, a 501(C)(3) organization, to P.O. Box 33, Marlborough, MA 01752.
For information, visit www.kitsforkids.org.