Taci Bettis (left) and Harmony Enders look through some clothes at Nikiski North Star Elementary School during the Boys & Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula event offering free clothes, shoes and books on Monday, July 31, 2017 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

Taci Bettis (left) and Harmony Enders look through some clothes at Nikiski North Star Elementary School during the Boys & Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula event offering free clothes, shoes and books on Monday, July 31, 2017 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

Free for all: Nikiski teens give back with free clothes, shoes and books

From winter boots to a Winston Churchill biography, the gymnasium of Nikiski North Star Elementary School has been transformed into Nikiski’s own department store, with every bill totaling zero.

The Boys and Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula Nikiski Clubhouse teen members have been collecting donations of clothing, shoes and books since late June. On Monday, they opened the doors to the school’s gymnasium for anyone to come and stock their closets or book shelves for free. The community is invited to peruse the donations and fill their bags from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Wednesday.

“We wanted to make sure that we could give back to the community in some way,” Tawnisha Freeman, one of the teenagers involved in organizing the event, said.

The group, which fluctuates around 20 students in sixth grade and above, works with the Boys and Girls Club throughout the summer in different areas including community service and college and career readiness.

“They picked a community project and one of the things they wanted to do was make sure they gave back in some way, and not just to Nikiski residents but to the surrounding community as well,” Nikiski Boys and Girls Club Unit Director Shanette Wik said. “They wanted to make sure it stretched out.”

The group usually hosts a garage sale but this year while they transitioned from their former location at the Nikiski High School to Nikiski North Star Elementary School, planning for the sale was put on the back burner.

“We just didn’t have time… but the kids said the most important thing they’ve seen at the garage sale was that we’ve always had free clothes, free shoes and free books,” Wik said. “So they wanted to make sure that happened.”

The group brainstormed different ways to get the word out there and solicite donations. They set up donation bins at local businesses, posted signs and spread the word.

“One day, we had just a pile of bags filled with clothes on the side of the building,” Wik said. “… At one point, we had 25 big black trash bags, it just kept pouring in. I am in awe at how much the community donated.”

The gymnasium is full of tables, covered in clothes that are organized by sex, size and type. Throughout the day, the teens fold and maintain the clothes or greet guests at the door with a bag to help them hold their finds. Lining the walls, shoes of all types and sizes wait for their new home.

“It’s really fun,” Giaseena Nicks, one of the teenagers working on the event, said. “I get to meet a lot of new people and talk to them.”

Wik said a lot of the winter clothes and shoes went quickly, but donations are still coming in, and there is still plenty of clothes perfect for children heading back to school this month. After Wednesday, any clothes not taken home will be donated again.

“The men’s clothing will go to the men’s mission, the women’s to the resource center and then the kids’ clothing will go to the Big Brothers and Big Sisters bins,” Wik said. “We want to make sure it all goes back to a nonprofit.”

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com.

Tawnisha Freeman (left) and Giaseena Nicks of the Nikiski clubhouse with Boys and Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula keep the tables organized Monday, July 31, 2017, at the free clothing, shoes and book event they helped organize. The event, which is held at Nikiski North Star Elementary School in Nikiski, Alaska, runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Wednesday, August 2, 2017. (Photo by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

Tawnisha Freeman (left) and Giaseena Nicks of the Nikiski clubhouse with Boys and Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula keep the tables organized Monday, July 31, 2017, at the free clothing, shoes and book event they helped organize. The event, which is held at Nikiski North Star Elementary School in Nikiski, Alaska, runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Wednesday, August 2, 2017. (Photo by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

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