The City of Fort Walton Beach is proud to have the Fort Walton Beach Police Department and the Fort Walton Beach Public Library representing the city in the Junior League of the Emerald Coast’s annual Child Clothing Project.
The project provides clothing to elementary school students in need in Okaloosa and Walton counties and is funded through donations and other fundraising events the JLEC holds over the year. This year’s event was hosted by the Hsu Educational Foundation’s Innovation Institute South campus in Fort Walton Beach.
“We have all these wonderful community partners,” said Lauren Link, chair of this year’s Child Clothing Project. “Lots of the stores around town have given us discounts.”
In addition to helping the Junior League stretch its dollars, businesses like Belk in Destin have loaned the Junior League shoe and clothing racks for display.
“We can display everything nicely so that it looks more like a store,” said Link. “We wanted it to be like shopping; we wanted it to be fun and enjoyable.”
Student volunteers from Choctawhatchee, Destin, and Niceville high schools as well as Shoal River Middle School shepherded the young children through the “stores,” helping them to pick out clothing and shoes based on the sizes submitted by the children’s parents.
Once done shopping, the children enjoyed a pizza lunch and visited displays set up by local organizations, where they could do everything from building a Lego fidget spinner to flying a small aerial drone through an obstacle course.
Officers Bhagwatsingh, Johnson, Parsons, and Schohn from Fort Walton Beach’s Community Policing division were there with vehicles and a display of some of the specialty gear used by officers. They spent the morning fielding questions from curious children.
“Last year we reached out to the Fort Walton Beach Police Department to participate in the clothing event,” said Link. “We noticed that some of the kids were initially intimidated. But an hour later the same kids were sitting in the police cars, pushing the buttons and talking to the officers.”
“I’m very proud of our police officers,” said Link. “They’re really good at making connections.”