For most of October, Kristen Hogan’s office becomes a temporary costume closet for the bits and pieces collected from Baton Rouge’s YMCA branches for its annual Halloween costume drive.
YMCA patrons donate costumes that their children have outgrown, Hogan said, and the Y matches those costumes with the children who want it and can fit into it.
“We do ask parents what their children want to be, and what size they need,” she said. “We find and fill those as we can, and then the remaining costumes go to a couple of schools in the area.”
It’s not at all unusual to see the same costumes cycle back through the donation program multiple times, she said.
“Once they’ve been worn, generally they’re not going to fit the next year, and kids don’t want to wear the same costume two years in a row, anyway. A lot of parents donate them back,” she said.
“We have a few, probably about 30 costumes right now,” Hogan, marketing director for the YMCA of the Capital Area, said as of Oct. 8 when they moved the early haul from Hogan’s office to one of the multi-purpose rooms to sort and size the costumes.
Sometimes, it’s easy. Many of the costumes appear brand-new, and all the pieces are still together in the original bag, with the size clearly marked.
But other times it takes a bit of detective work, a good eye and the process of elimination.
Hogan, along with several staff members in the Y’s corporate office, Courtney Guillen, administrative assistant, Tessica Meloche, payroll coordinator and staff accountant Shanna Duke, untie plastic bags and pull out the contents.
“Hmm. Not sure about this one,” one of the group said of a yellow costume with wings pinned to the back. “Maybe a bumble bee?”
They keep digging, and come up holding an ensemble that includes a sequined leotard trimmed in black feathers, with long, black satin gloves and a feathered headpiece.
“Oh, yeah. Some little girl is going to love that,” Hogan said. “Anything that glitters is good.”
At the bottom of the pile are brown leggings, a long, thin strip of red felt, and a padded belt that are all rolled up together, sitting on top of a red tent dress with white polka dots.
Hogan holds up the dress, flips it around to look at the back. It has ruffles along the neckline, she noticed, and could probably work as a Minnie Mouse costume, with some face paint and a couple of extra pieces.
When all the costumes are assembled, she said, it’s not uncommon for the group to make a list of a few essentials that, if purchased and combined with what’s there, would make a complete costume.
“It’s really a lot of fun for us,” Hogan said, as one of the costume crew donned a cape with a peace sign printed on the back and pretended to fly from one table to the next.
She “lands” at the brown tights and lifts each item one at a time. As they discuss what it could be, one of the women stops short.
“Oh! Didn’t we get a ninja turtle shell?” she said, digging through one of the boxes.
“Ahhh, that’s it!” a third said, flipping the thin red piece sideways, and holding it in front of her face to reveal two eyeholes of the turtle’s eyemask/headband.
“See? It’s not always so obvious,” Hogan said.
The Halloween costume drive will continue through Oct. 24, when the costumes will be distributed to a few schools and after care programs in the Baton Rouge area, Hogan said.
It’s a small thing, but it means a lot to children, she said.
For all those with used costumes they’d like to get rid of, Hogan said anyone can drop them off at any YMCA location, she said.
It helps the sorting crew if all pieces are kept together in the same bag, Hogan said, and is also helpful if the size of the costume is clearly marked.
Hogan said the Sales and Marketing Executives of Greater Baton Rouge are also collecting costumes for the drive, as are the members of Pi Sigma Epsilon at LSU.
“SME was collecting costumes at their luncheons to donate to the cause,” said Alexander Tardo, president of Pi Sigma Epsilon in an e-mail to The Advocate. “PSE thought this would be a great service project to bring to the LSU community.”
Donations can be dropped off at the College of Business Rotunda, the Art and Design Building, and the Student Union on campus, he said.
The Y distributed about 100 costumes last year, Hogan said.