OXFORD HILLS — With school just around the corner, many children are excited to go back, see friends and share the fun of learning. Some, not so much.
One of the exciting things about back to school is the first day of school outfit.
For teenage girls, this is more of an angst-filled decision.
But thanks to Kathy Kingsbury and Tricia Reynolds, girls 13 to 18 years old in the SAD 17 and SAD 61 school districts will have a special opportunity to “shop” for a new outfit and get a back to school haircut as well. And the price is perfect: not one penny.
Thanks to the largesse of the community at large, everything is free on a first come, first-served basis. Because of the limited supply of clothing, girls are urged to come early.
The Back to School Clothes Bazaar is Monday, Aug. 14 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 to 8 p.m. downstairs at the United Parish Congregational Church at 77 Main St. in Harrison (across from Crystal Lake beach).
The clothing is appropriate for middle/junior and high school girls.
Simple haircuts will also be offered (no color or perms). Stylists Jenna Parlin from Tangles in Bridgton, along with an associate and Kersti Garrett of Crystal Lake Spa, will be on hand to give girls a stylish haircut just in time for opening day.
The bazaar is open to everyone in the two school districts.
“This [idea] was born from personal experience,” says Kingsbury, recalling a year in high school when she “struggled with the shame of not feeling good enough.”
“I didn’t have what others had and for the first time, I realized how vicious young girls can be to each other … they don’t realize how hurtful laughter and comments can be … this has been on my heart for a long time.”
No stranger to organizing kind and thoughtful things to benefit others in her community, Kingsbury used to run a senior ministry at her former church in Massachusetts. “I ran a spa day for seniors,” she explains, “but this is the first time for back to school.
“I was at a yard sale and saw all this beautiful women’s clothing and the man told me, ‘She has a ton to get rid of,’ and I said, ‘Would she consider donating the clothes, I am planning an event … .””
Three weeks later, Kingsbury says, her phone rang and the owner of the clothes “donated more than a thousand dollars worth of new, tags-on and gently worn clothing. But she wants anonymity. It’s very upscale clothing and she really kickstarted the whole thing.”
In fact, Kingsbury hadn’t even floated the idea past her pastor, Franklin Anderson.
“I kinda knew Pastor would be behind it and if he wasn’t, I would find another venue.”
He was 100 percent behind it, she says and so was the Waterford Congregational Church, which decided to partner with them.
Her good friend, Reynolds, also jumped on board and the two – a delightful stand-up comedy duo – set out to make the event a success.
“We have received money and clothing donations from all over and I have friends in Massachusetts [Beverly Church of the Nazarene in Beverly, Massachusetts] who also sent clothing.”
In addition to clothing, they say, there are also a limited number of accessories and the clothing comes in all sizes.
Reynolds says of Kingsbury, “I met her in heaven.”
Although the two hail from Massachusetts, Reynolds says her parents are both from Maine and Kingsbury says her ancestors were part of the founders of Harrison.
“My mother was born across the street [from the church] but I grew up in Mass. We [she and Reynolds] never met until [we were both] here.”
Others from their parish have jumped on board including Deb Kane, Martha Holden and Jim LaPlante.
“I was talking to Deb and Tricia,” says Kingsbury, “and I hear, ‘Excuse me are you looking for clothing? I have three bags in my car.'”
This is much the way the collection process has gone, she says. “Many, many from our congregation have donated.”
The women say anything left over will be donated to Harvest Hill Animal Shelter for its thrift shop.
The clothing includes dresses, hoodies, scarves, leggings, jeans, tops and sweaters, as well as a very limited supply of coats. Many of the items have never been worn and still have the original tags.
“We hope this gives girls a good start to their school year,” says Anderson.