Halloween for all, thanks to individual

The mere mention of Halloween elicits howls of joy from the Garner children. But for their father, Jamal, the real fright comes from paying for costumes for five kids.

But this year is different. With the help of Costumes for Kids, a program started by a county employee, the Garner children — from the newborn to the 14-year-old — will trick-or-treat in style in their East Palo Alto neighborhood.

“In our neighborhood, people don’t really mingle,” Jamal Garner said. “Halloween is when we go trick-or-treating and get to know people. It means a lot to my kids, and it gets them closer to people.”

Costumes for Kids was started in 2005 by Jennifer Rogers, then a caseworker for the Calworks program, which serves families on aid. After hearing from tearful parents who couldn’t afford Halloween costumes, Rogers looked for donation programs that would help, but came up empty.

“It was heartbreaking,” she said. “I remember one mom saying her son had to sit out a parade in school.”

Rogers sent out an e-mail to her coworkers at the county’s Human Services Agency for help and received 25 costumes. Last year, she stepped up her efforts, getting funding from the Children’s Fund Advisory Board and help with publicity from San Mateo County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier, who serves as a liaison to the Children’s Fund.

This year, Rogers has handed out 180 costumes and expects to distribute 300 by Wednesday.

“They pick up their costumes at the front desk and start running around in them and it’s just great to see,” Rogers said.

Those who wish to help may provide costumes and financial assistance to The Children’s Fund. For more information, please call Jennifer Rogers at (650) 802-6454.

tbarak@examiner.com

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