Valerie’s Family is Ready for Back-to-School

By Nicole Herron, Wearhouse Manager

It is an exciting time of year as kids head back to school for a new academic year and a fresh start. But as every parent knows, the expenses associated with the seemingly endless list of school supplies and new clothes that growing kids need can be overwhelming. For caregivers of kids in foster care like Valerie Utnage, the Treehouse Wearhouse eases the financial strain of the back-to-school season by providing her kids with all of the clothes and supplies they need to start the new school year strong.


Although her family lives in Enumclaw, Valerie looks forward to making the drive out to Seattle for special shopping trips at the Wearhouse. As the caregiver to pre-teens Acie and Moses and teen Trinity, it’s a challenge to not only keep up with their growth spurts, but also their ever-changing style and clothing preferences. Finding the right outfits is especially important during the back-to-school season, when Valerie knows her kids are going to want to wear new outfits for the first day of school.

Valerie’s three youth have been shopping at the Wearhouse for their back-to-school needs ever since they came into her care two years ago. Her kids love the selection that the Wearhouse provides, and the layout of the store makes it feel like they are shopping in a traditional store. Valerie distinctly remembers a moment from last year’s trip when her kids’ faces lit up upon seeing a sneaker display and learning that they could pick out their favorite pair to take home. But even more than the shoes, her kids’ favorite part of the shopping trip tends to be picking out new backpacks. After the selection is made, Valerie helps her kids fill them up with all of the items on their school supply lists. While the shopping experience is fun for the whole family, it also helps free up resources for Valerie to spend on other needs throughout the year. After each visit, her kids leave the Wearhouse with their bags full, and Valerie leaves with a sense of relief.

This year, the Wearhouse has served more than 950 shoppers, distributing 11,000 school supplies and 700 backpacks. Acie, Moses, and Trinity headed back to school on Tuesday fully prepared for academic success!

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About the Author

As the Manager of the Wearhouse, Nicole Herron makes sure Treehouse’s store is a place where youth can find the essential items they need to feel confident and successful in school. In order for the Wearhouse to distribute more than a million dollars of donated items to families in King County each year, Nicole leads a team of Treehouse staff and many dedicated volunteers.

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