Kids Matter International is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children in poverty in Northeast Tarrant County, fulfilling essential needs like new clothing and creating the opportunity for a brighter future.

The backstory

The organization started when a group of Southlake residents with Houses of Hope began supporting an orphanage in Honduras. After two years, the founders refocused their efforts on helping the local community in Northeast Tarrant County. The founders launched Kids Matter International as a separate nonprofit in 2007.

“We are a small but really mighty charity and we serve children who live in poverty right here in our own backyard,” said Marti Conner, President of Kids Matter International.

Meeting community needs

Conner said that although Northeast Tarrant County may look like an affluent area on the surface, there are over 6,000 kids living in poverty in the area. These children’s families are earning less than $25,000 a year, she said.

“When you're in an area like Southlake, within literally a few miles from you there are kids that may not get a meal today,” Conner said.

Kids Matter International has two core initiatives to help disadvantaged children: providing new clothing and promoting literacy.

Providing clothing

If a family is living in poverty and is struggling to have enough money for basic needs like food and shelter, then new clothing can’t be a priority, Conner said. Children might only have hand-me-downs or clothes that don’t fit comfortably.

“Think about a child going to a new school,” Conner said. “Imagine when somebody's walking in the door and their T-shirt is too big or their pants are torn. You stick out.”

Kids Matter raises funds to provide $100 shopping vouchers to each child. Through the organization’s partnership with Kohl's and Twisted X Global Brands, volunteers are able to take children shopping. By capitalizing on discounts and their tax exempt status, $100 can generate over $300 worth of new clothes. Twisted X donates casual shoes to complete the wardrobe. Since Kids Matter International’s founding, the organization has been able to provide new clothes to over 18,000 children.

“It's important to us that they’re involved in their own shopping,” Conner said.

For many kids, it is the first time they are receiving new clothes versus hand-me-downs or

second-hand clothes. By taking children shopping and allowing them to choose new clothes that they like, volunteers with Kids Matter International are helping children be more confident and have a stronger sense of self-worth.

“For us, it's about dignity and respect and helping these children to have a little bit better life in the future,” Conner said.

Promoting literacy

When children are learning to read, teachers encourage parents to read with their children at home to continue growing those skills. However, many of the children Kids Matter International serves are not being read to at home, because parents may not have the time or resources to help, she said.

“Unfortunately in our school system, kids just get passed along to the next grade. And so you see a lot of children, especially living in poverty, who will fall back or drop out of school because they can't keep up,” she said.

Conner said literacy is a key component to children being able to break out of the cycle of poverty.

Kids Matter International meets this need by distributing new books, reading with children and volunteering with after-school programs. The organization distributes around 18,000 new books each year to schools in the area.

Nonprofit accountability

The nonprofit has received a platinum rating from Candid for six years in a row. This distinction is given to charities that practice financial transparency and accountability.

“We're really proud of the fact that this is our sixth consecutive year. It is the highest rating a

charity can be awarded ,” Conner said.

Get involved

Previously located in Southlake, Kids Matter International moved Oct. 10 to a new space in Grapevine, located at 351 E. Hudgins St., Ste. 113.

People in the community can participate in Kids Matter International’s mission by donating their time, their skills or their financial resources, Conner said.

“Open your eyes, look at what's out there,” Conner said. “There are so many kids that are struggling and you can positively impact them and how they think about themselves and their everyday life by just helping them with the most basic things.”

To learn about specific volunteer opportunities and upcoming events, visit Kids Matter International’s website.

The above story was produced by Multi-Platform Journalist Mary Katherine Shapiro with Community Impact's Storytelling team with information solely provided by the local business as part of their "sponsored content" purchase through our advertising team.