When Natalie Spring saw that someone had broken into her car, her main concern was a missing bag in the back seat.
The bag was technically worth only $5 – she had filled it up at the Scrap Exchange pop-up thrift shop the day before. But the Halloween costumes inside would be worth far more to the children in her neighborhood this fall.
“We’d found 20 brand-new costumes that were all super scary and fancy,” she said. They were sure to be in high demand, especially with older children, so she was relieved when a neighbor called to say the costumes had been found strewn about a parking lot several blocks away.
Spring, who works in the Duke University development office, started collecting and distributing Halloween costumes and candy seven years ago after neighbors remarked that few children trick-or-treated in the Cleveland-Holloway area. For lower-income families, the cost of costumes and candy was hard to justify, she said.
“In all the talk of gentrification around downtown it’s easy to forget that there are still people who are desperately poor,” Spring said. “I get that basics – food, shelter, school – have to be taken care of first, but I’d argue that fun and being a kid are just as important.”
Spring helped organize the first “Cleveland Hollow’een” celebration that has since become an annual tradition. Each year, the festivities include a movie night in Oakwood Park and a costume parade led by guests such as Mayor Bill Bell or Durham Bulls mascot Wool E. Bull.
“It’s one of the few things that is the entire neighborhood does together,” she said. “There’s so much good will and positive energy around it all.”
Spring expects to give out between 30 and 50 costumes this year. She said she often gets lots of donated costumes for children under age 2 but runs short on costumes for older children. She also always needs more age-appropriate costumes for girls.
Those who would like to donate to the neighborhood’s costume chest can contact Spring by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
get that basics – food, shelter, school – have to be taken care of first, but I’d argue that fun and being a kid are just as important.