Not only was it her sixth birthday Thursday, she was getting ready to go to school in a month.
And she knew exactly what she wanted.
She marched to the back room, her arms swinging purposefully.
Peanut was intent on completing her important mission.
She grabbed a plastic bag from the bin, snapped it open like the shopping-pro that she is, hooked it over her arm and headed straight for the clothing racks.
“Peanut,” whose given name is Lynda Brewer, went shopping with her mom, Amanda Wallace, and her mamaw, Linda Wallace, at the free clothes bank at People Helping People Wednesday.
Peanut headed straight for the first three-foot-high clothes rack she could find.
She searched high and low. She pulled out one shirt. Frowned. Put it back on the rack.
Then she picked out a white T-shirt, smiled, and held it up to show mom.
‘Too big,’ mom said.
Then a stripped sweater. This one was too small.
One pair of jeans was too short; the other too long.
But Peanut persevered and eventually — SUCCESS! Peanut was able to fill up her one bag with everything from tops and shirts and jeans and shoes for both her birthday and for the start of a new school year.
The pair of shoes she got for school was a pair of black and pink athletic shoes with a Bratz logo on it. The other was a white pair of tap she wanted so she could take line dancing classes. But she wouldn’t have been able to take the classes without the right pair of shoes. Her shoes would have been too expensive anywhere else. But thanks to People Helping People, she can.
Peanut knows how to pack to fit the most items into her one bag. In fact, Peanut calls herself a “refreshinal stylist” not a professional stylist.
Peanut was overjoyed with delight after finishing her shopping spree.
But, even more overwhelmed with happiness were her mom and mamaw watching the joy Peanut was having and ecstatic that their little Peanut was happy and would have some great new togs to wear — and for free.
It was hard to know who was happier.
But none of this would have been possible if it weren’t for the incredibly good-hearted and community-mined Wilcoxon family and some of their relatives who started offering free clothes and other household items for folks — folks from anywhere in the world who find themselves in the Benton area and need a little helping hand — are welcome to come on by to the People Helping People organization.
“You’re dealing with some good folks here,” said Linda Wallace, mamaw to Peanut. “People Helping People. This is needful around here. There are a lot of people who can’t afford anything.”
But, actually, you don’t have to be in desperate need. Anyone can stop by and pick out some free clothing and other household items, whether you are poor or rich.
“We know how it is. People can’t afford to go to Walmart every week,” said Peanut’s mom, Amanda Brewer. “People Helping People is a very friendly environment.”
But the Brewer/Wallace family also has gathered up items from their own home that they didn’t need and brought them to People Helping People on occasions so other folks can make use of them.
“Anything we can’t use, we bring up here,” mom Amanda said.
When Gail Wilcoxon opened up Kidz E-Change Plus last September, she never imagined in her wildest dreams where life was going to lead her and her family and her shop of childrens’ clothing.
“When we first started, we had just one rack of clothes,” Gail said. “Then it just started to grow.”
With help from her mom, Sharon Black, her daughters, Becky and Amanda Wilcoxon, her brother, Carl Haulk, her niece, Felicia Hawkins, her son, Josh Shelton, her daugther-in-law, Katie Shelton, and her husband, Mac Wilcoxon, the family used to buy clothes — but only in season: winter clothes in winter; summer clothes in summer. But folks would bring them in year-round and then often just give them to Gail if they couldn’t sell them.
“We would fill two Teen Challenge bins with clothes every week,” said Becky Wilcoxon, one of Gail’s daughters. Gail and her family then started having yard sales and would give the proceeds to needy families — families with someone suffering from cancer, for example, who could use the money. “It got to the point where it was hard to decide who we should give the money.”
So, they had the idea of letting folks come in only on Tuesday and pick from the extra clothing they had — for free — but on a typical day, they might have 40 people in the clothes free bank at one time.
“We were drop down, drag out busy,” Becky admitted. “We had to do something about the crowd.”
That’s when they decided to open a free clothes bank every day.
“But we’re willing to take just about anything in as a donation,” Becky said.
And it doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, young or old, working or unemployed, from Tennessee or North Carolina, from Polk or Bradley counties, anyone who wants to can get a typical grocery-sized bag of free clothes, in addition to some free household items each and every month. In addition, a family can receive one free big household item.
In addition to the next door children’s retail clothing shop, Kidz X-Change, People Helping People features clothes of all kinds for children, women, men. They have a huge selection of women’s clothing in sizes small to extra-large, suits, coats, all manner of shoes, belts, scarves and pocketbooks, etc.; all sorts of children’s clothing; and also men’s clothing. But there is also a section with medium- to larger-sized household items —anything from tables and recliners to lamps, radios, dishes and even TVs and sometimes even computers.
And, instead of losing business in her retail children’s clothing store, the exact opposite has happened. After receiving some of the needed clothing, visitors often buy additional items they never dreamed they would be able to afford thanks to People Helping People’s clothing bank.
Another separate section has been set aside for those with even more dire needs, such as those who lost their homes and/or are victims of domestic violence. Items include towels, linens, pots and pans, blankets, coffee pots, etc.
Gail also gives away $20 in additional clothing to the children caught in these above circumstances.
Their belief is that everybody gets into hard times on occasion.
“We don’t turn anyone away,” Becky said. “We’ve helped 1,500 in the last six months.”
Just fill out a card at the register at every visit with name (only first names in domestic violence situations), address, phone number and the county you live in and just sign in every time you visit there.
“If you need it, you can come and get it,” Gail said.
Last month, People Helping People has helped 263 folks from Polk County, 76 from Bradley County, 12 from McMinn, and 15 from out of state.
Any person, group or organization also can help the group stay open by being a monthly sponsor for just $10. Your name or the name of your organization will then be prominently displayed as a sponsor throughout each month sponsored.
“We’re looking for more and more sponsors,” Gail said. “We need them to help pay for the rent and the electricity.”
Volunteers are needed to work hanging up clothes, checking to make sure ensure clothes are on the correct size racks, and removing unused hangers, etc.
People Helping People is located approximately 3 miles north of U.S. 64 on Hwy. 411. Look for the sign Kidz X-Change Plus at 184 Mull Road between Burgess Feed and Farm and the BP station in Benton. It is open Mondays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; closed on Sundays. Mailing address is: P.O. Box 263, Benton, TN 37307. For more information, call 299-9048 or 716-2054 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.