Tonawanda News

February 2, 2014

Ken-Ton Closet taking next steps

Ken-Ton Closet celebrates first anniversary with first fundraiser

By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — It’s been an interesting year for the Ken-Ton Closet.

Since its start last February, the organization based at the Sheridan-Parkside Community Center has provided dozens of children with needed clothing and school supplies, partnered with many local individuals and groups — and weathered a break-in that decimated its school supplies and other materials, but led to increased security at the site and a huge community response.

As it heads into its second year, however, Closet organizers have their sights set on taking a bigger step, to help even more children in 2014 and beyond.

Jill O’Malley of Kenmore, director of the Ken-Ton Closet, said the organization just started its first official fundraiser, which is being held to raise money to pay the fees necessarily for the Closet to become a full nonprofit. Until now, she said, organizers haven’t asked for money because they were doing OK with community generosity and item donations, but achieving nonprofit status will help the group do even more.

“In our first month, we lost out on two major donations, about $2,000, where the companies required us to be nonprofits,” O’Malley said. She also hopes to work with The John R. Oishei Foundation, which offers grants for organizations such as the Closet, but requires them to be nonprofit.

But first, they have to get there.

“I’m not very good at asking for money,” O’Malley said. “I’m not shy at all aboout asking fof 25 pairs of underwear for kids, but when it comes to asking for $25, I don’t know what to do.”

Lindbergh Elementary School PTA co-president Jennifer Szustakowski has been helping with the new campaign, using experience gained as former vice president in charge of fundraising at the PTA.

“I’m pretty frugal,” she said. “Finding ways to raise money while not spending a real lot is kind of my forte. Really, we’re starting off by asking people who’ve already helped the closet, our friends and families, to just give a couple dollars to help us become a non-profit. 

“And the response has been pretty good so far.”

Lindbergh Elementary had the first donation to the Closet campaign, followed by a number of other local schools, groups and individuals. The Closet has a PayPal account (listed on its Facebook page) and also accepts checks mailed to Ken-Ton Closet, P.O. Box 343, Buffalo NY 14223. The goal is at least $1,500.

Money acquired through the fundraiser, which runs through Feb. 14, will be used for IRS and incorporation fees and other smaller fees and incidental costs. O’Malley plans to submit the business plan to the Volunteer Lawyers Project, which helps small nonprofit groups; if that doesn’t go through, more money will be needed for the legal fees.

In addition, fund are needed for items the Closet just can’t accept as used donations: Socks and underwear for children.

“We have to buy those things new, and unless we found a way to start some major, major campaign where we collected them every single month ... it’s not enough,” O’Malley said. “Socks and underwear are two of those things kids shouldn’t even have to think about going without.”

In addition to the fundraising campaign, other efforts are coming up to help the organization. USitek Group of the Town of Tonawanda is hosting the Closet’s first ink-cartridge recycling event from today through Feb. 8 at its show room at 1016 Niagara Falls Blvd. Donors can bring their used ink cartridges in from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. The cartridges are given to Office Max in exchange for gift certificates than can be used on office supplies for the organization or school supplies for children.

“It’s just a way for us to not have to spend money,” O’Malley said.

Then, from 2 to 6 p.m. Feb. 8, the “Toasty Toes for Tots” shoe and sock drive will take place at the Knights of Columbus, 1530 Kenmore Ave., Kenmore, sponsored by The Giving Hearts of Hope. Admission is the event costs $10 per child ($30 maximum per family) with adults admitted free, and includes activities, crafts, games and face-painting. New or gently used children’s footwear of all kinds, new children’s socks and basket raffle donations are needed. 

Beyond that, donation collection continues at Sheridan-Parkside and other locations (coats for children are particularly needed right now, as are the always-needed new socks and underwear). For more information, email, visit or search for Ken-Ton Closet on Facebook.

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