Kids can be so observant, but it’s not everyday you encounter kids with the pragmatism and dedication to translate what they see into a way to help others. When Northern California siblings Olivia and Alex Metz saw an opportunity to reuse Halloween costumes, they started the nonprofit Costumes4Kids to make sure those costumes found their way to kids in need.
We talked to Olivia and Alex, 10 and 17, about their work with Costumes4Kids and what motivates them to help others, both locally and around the world.
What inspired you to start Costumes4Kids?
My brother and I really like dressing up for Halloween — it’s such a fun time of year. But costumes can be pretty expensive and if you have a lot of kids it may not be affordable to buy new ones every year. Since Halloween costumes are usually only worn once, it seemed like recycling them by sharing with others would be a good idea. We had not heard of anyone else in our area doing anything like this for Halloween so we started Costumes4Kids.
I dance so also thought about all of the dancewear and costumes we wear just once on stage or for a short time before they are outgrown, so we also collect these types of costumes, too. We might also start accepting sports uniforms in the future.
How do you decide where to donate the costumes you collect?
Olivia and I and our mom made some calls to local family shelters and youth organizations and hospitals to see if there were kids there who might need them. Last year we also wanted to help families affected by the Sonoma fires so a lot of costumes went to a drive that the local police department was hosting. This year, a dance and theater company based in Africa reached out to see if we could donate some dance costumes so we will be sending them a box next month.
How many costumes did you collect this year? Where will you donate them?
We have had over 500 costumes donated and distributed so far this year. The Halloween costumes were donated to STAND!, John Muir Hospital, Love a Child Missions and Bay Area Rescue Mission. Dancewear and other dance costumes are being donated to youth organizations like the Community Youth Center in Concord, Schoola.com and similar non-profits in surrounding Bay area cities. We are in the process of packaging a box that will go to Nigeria to support a dance studio and theater company.
How has your community responded to your work?
Everyone has been positive and we’ve gotten a lot of people asking to help volunteer. Our donations have nearly doubled since last year and people have definitely been sharing our mission on social media, including Nextdoor, and word of mouth, which is exciting.
It can be a lot of work to sort through, package, size and label the costumes so having volunteers is really helpful. Both our local elementary school, Camino Pablo, as well as the two Loard’s Ice Cream locations in Orinda and Moraga, had donation containers this year. World Market in Walnut Creek donated all of our paper shopping bags that we carry the costumes in for drop-off. CAPA (dance) in Moraga has a container year-round and the Rheem Theater and Orchard Nursery have also housed donation containers.
Do you deliver the costumes to the organizations personally? If so, tell me about the experience.
Yes, we personally deliver all of the costumes to the organizations. Last year we invited friends to join us on our trip to Sonoma to deliver 20 large bags of costumes, which was a lot of fun. We got to talk to a local police officer who was really happy that we drove all the way there to deliver the costumes. At the Love a Child family shelter, there were some kids there last year and they were super excited when we came by. They were asking for Batman and princess costumes and we had a lot of those. Olivia and a friend also had a chance to deliver costumes to John Muir Hospital. It’s nice to meet the organizations and the kids who will receive the costumes and dancewear.
What do you like about helping other people?
It feels good to know that we’re helping kids that may be less fortunate — sharing these things just feels like the right thing to do. There are lots of opportunities to help people and we see this as a way of involving our local community to help others both nearby and globally. We plan to continue to partner with new organizations that can benefit from these donations.
To follow Costumes4Kids’s updates, like them on their Facebook page, CACostumes4Kids.