Our Beginning

In 1967 the Salt River flooded, washing out many of the migrant camps located along the river bank. A group of women supported by “The Order of True Sisters” and other Phoenix agencies banded together to raise money to supply back-to-school clothes for the children of the migrant families. Founders Lucy Allen and Selma Shefler raised enough resources in the first year to provide 871 children with clothing, establishing Back-to-School Clothing Drive.

Almost 50 years later, Back-to-School Clothing Drive still strives to provide for students from Phoenix and the surrounding areas.

More About Back-to-School Clothing Drive

Clean clothes, shoes that fit, and a backpack stocked with school supplies … most children don’t think twice about getting these necessities when they start school. But for children whose families can’t afford them, such items – and the self-confidence they bring – are hopelessly out of reach.

Founded in 1967, Back to School Clothing Drive provides these fundamental items to high-need children throughout Arizona.  Through our three programs we help more than 25,000 children from 260+ schools in 40 school districts.  These programs help break down barriers to early childhood school success, build self-esteem and self-confidence, and ultimately confident, strong students ready to learn, achieve, and advance.

Our mission is to provide new school outfits and uniforms, backpacks, and school supplies to children in need. We help break down barriers to early-childhood school and education success.
Each July, more than 9,500 students benefit from our “New Clothes, New Beginnings” clothing distribution through our partnership with BHHS Legacy Foundation’s “Backpack Buddies” program.  Our Student Attire for Education (SAFE) program offers matching grants to schools that shop in our online store to fill their onsite clothing closets. All proceeds from the store are invested back into our program to fund additional grants and help more children. Finally, Our Stitches of Love program consists of 500 volunteer seamstresses who sew clothes all year so students can return to school with an item that was handmade just for them.

With the help of our volunteers, corporate sponsors, foundation grants, and donors, Back to School Clothing Drive allows students to focus on what’s truly important –  getting an education.

Executive Officers

Vincent Payne, Board President
Ken Jacobson, Treasurer
Kelley Kwasigroch Allen, Board VP
Bonnie L. Smith


Matt Giordano
Katie Calloway
Debbi Blean
Marie G. Brennan
Sandy Whitver
Seth Parker
Nancy McCray

Who We Reach Per Year

25,000 Children
260 Schools
40 School Districts

It’s More Than a Job.

Meet the people behind Back-to-School Clothing Drive.

Our Staff

Karl Gentles
Karl GentlesExecutive Director
Karl Gentles lives his passionate for social entrepreneurship and philanthropy through his role as executive director of the nonprofit Back to School Clothing Drive (BTSCD) and as managing partner of Goode Wright Gentles, a brand strategy, event production and public relations agency. Celebrating its 50th year anniversary in 2017, BTSCD helps more than 25,000 students attending 265 Title I public elementary schools in 40 districts in Maricopa County and Northern Arizona. With more than 20 years of corporate, public relations and nonprofit experience, Karl leads the organization’s highly-acclaimed retail social enterprise that provides matching grants and sells school uniforms to partner schools in support their onsite clothing closets. Gentles was selected as a Piper Fellow in 2011 by Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust.  He holds a certificate in Nonprofit Management from Georgetown University Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership, and a certificate in Social Entrepreneurship from INSEAD School of Business.  A two-time Sun Devil, Gentles earned a bachelor’s degree in organizational communication and later a MBA. He serves on the boards of the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, Black Chamber of Arizona, Maricopa Integrated Health Systems Audit and Finance Committee, and Gamma Mu Educational Services.
Joanne Grady
Joanne GradyProgram Administrator
Joanne Grady has more than 10 years experience working for nonprofit organizations and also has a work history which includes customer service and order processing in both retail and service industries.

Ms. Grady’s nonprofit work experience includes client management and program services, fundraising and events management, donor relations, volunteer coordination, public relations and community liaison work. She has advanced communication and service skills, along with staff management experience.

Ms. Grady graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree in Child Development & Family Relations from Illinois State University, lived and worked in the Chicago area most of her life and moved to Phoenix in 2004.

Robert SmithLogistics Manager
Suzanne KramerVolunteer Coordinator

Our Board Members

We need you. Join our community. Stay Informed.

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Donating gives them more than just clothes. You give them hope for a better future. Join Back-to-School Clothing Drive’s efforts and become part of a bigger cause by donating today.

Thank you.