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Kidsclothes™ handles underlying needs

Article by: Byron Crawford

Over dinner one December evening in 1993, E.J. Golightly noticed that his wife Kathryn was unusually quiet after helping out at their church's clothes closet.

When asked what was wrong, she said, "There are no socks and underwear for the children. They're all just rags," he remembered. "She was kind of emotional about it."

There were coats, jeans and other outerwear, but there was a critical need for basic undergarments. E.J. and Kathryn Golightly of Eastwood decided to help.

Over the past 13 years, with assistance from project co-founder John Ridoux and many other friends -- including the St. Luke's Episcopal Church of Anchorage congregation and corporate partners such as Fruit of the Loom -- the nonprofit program "Kidsclothes" has provided new socks and underwear to tens of thousands of needy youngsters and many adults. Nearly 10,000 were helped last year.

In for the long haul

After organizing and partially funding a startup program that provided about 7,200 pairs of socks and underwear through the clothes closet and Louisville's Home of the Innocents that first year, E.J. Golightly checked with the outreach coordinators the second year to find out how things were going.

"They said, 'We thought you were handling that,' " he recalled. "At that point I made my agreement with God that, as long as I'm around, I'm going to look after it."

The program has continued to grow as the Golightlys -- owners of One Stroke Inks, a Louisville manufacturer of silk screen inks -- and many of their employees and friends expanded the outreach.

St. Luke's senior minister Stanley Smith said it took him awhile after arriving in the parish to understand the value of the Golightlys caring for some of the most basic clothing needs beyond the obvious.

"Then it hit me: What good is it if I give a kid a shirt and a pair of blue jeans if they have no undergarments?" said Smith. "Sometimes John Q. Public doesn't think about that."

Paula Wolf, president of the 15th District PTA, said Kidsclothes provided socks and underwear this past year for nearly 5,000 needy Jefferson County schoolchildren.

The organization distributes clothing from its usual inventory of about 60,000 pairs of socks and underwear through a number of charitable organizations in Kentuckiana. Sizes range from the smallest for girls and boys up to adult size 52 men's and size 14 women's briefs, all new garments from Fruit of the Loom and Hosiery Mill Sales.

"I'm still trying to find infant wear at a reasonable price. In this business of trying to look after the less fortunate, I have found that nothing happens until somebody writes a check," E.J. Golightly said. "Good intentions are always there, but it takes money to do this type of thing."

Allies found

Kidsclothes now partners with Foot Works Inc. in St. Matthews, and a Shoe Carnival store and Horizons First Christian Church in Elizabethtown to help distribute new shoes to hundreds of youngsters.

The Golightlys and their company match many of the monetary donations to Kidsclothes and pay all of the organization's overhead to allow 100 percent of all donations to be used to purchase socks, underwear, toothbrushes and caps. This year, the couple have acquired a new Ford Focus to be raffled during the organization's biggest fundraising event, the St. Luke's barbecue in Anchorage on June 16.

"It's God's work that we're doing here," E.J. Golightly said. "When I'm gone, there are provisions in our wills that Kidsclothes will continue to be supported. We know there's a need."

Byron Crawford's column appears on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Reach him at (502) 582-4791 or bcrawford@courier-journal.com. Comment on this column, and read previous columns, at www.courier-journal.com/byron.

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