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Deborah Torres: Driving force behind a dream

Editor's note:

Today we continue our 10-part series profiling some of the people who made a difference in 2012. Those profiled were nominated by Daily Press readers, with the finalists selected by the Daily Press staff.

Joyce Applegarth: Learning through teaching

Feeding minds and souls

Miracle provider

Raising bars for students

Rose Villar: Passionate about wound care

Marcella Taylor: Keeping Roy and Dale alive

Helping the community one mattress at a time

VICTORVILLE • Cheryl Sislo can't say enough about her friend's passion behind Kid2KidCloset, an organization that helps nearly 600 families swap quality clothes with other families on a regular basis.

“It all started in a small garage with 30 families, and it’s exploded in size from when we started back in 2008,” said Sislo, an Oak Hills mother who volunteers at the closet. “There’s four of us moms who help, but Deborah is the driving force and fire behind it all.”

Torres’ drive to help families moved Sislo and a small army of mom-volunteers to nominate Torres as a Daily Press Person of the Year.

“If a child needs a jacket, shoes or clothing, Deborah will make sure that we work extra hard to find the right items,” Sislo said. “Just like Deborah, we love what we do and we wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Chris Tella, who discovered the group through Craigslist, began volunteering after she was inspired by Torres’ vision and heart for children.

“Deb puts her whole heart into what she does,” Tella said. “Deb even went out of her way to give a mom bus fare so that she did not have to walk home with her baby.”

After nearly four years of swapping clothes and making countless friends in a garage, Torres’ passion was moved to the Hawthorn Suites hotel in Victorville.

“Hawthorn has been very accommodating to us, and has given us everything we need for a our clothes swap,” Sislo said. “We have our special events there as well, like our recent Halloween swap where every kid got the costume they wanted, and our huge toy collection event with Santa and Mrs. Claus before Christmas.”

During the summer, the group’s back-to-school event helped hundreds of kids with clothing, school supplies and free haircuts.

The group is hoping to expand into a 3,000-square-foot building where the moms can set up a kid boutique, storage and swapping areas, which should save the group money on storage fees.

“Deborah has made Victor Valley a better place by helping one child at a time,” Sislo said. “Without her a lot of kids would be going without.”

Q: What inspired you to create Kid2KidCloset?

A: Kid2KidCloset was a desire to give back to the people in my community. I had seen my whole street slowly lose their homes. I wanted to help, but how? As a stay-at-home mom, I have to make sure my children have everything on a budget. If you can save money on clothing, maybe that money can buy dinner or pay a bill. I noticed how fast my kids went through clothing. They were still like new, and I wanted to share with other moms so they didn’t have to buy as much.

Q: How has helping families changed your perspective on people?

A: Helping families has really helped me to teach my children to appreciate what they have. We are not rich, but God has blessed us. There are so many out there that have so little. It really makes you almost feel guilty if you complain for what you don’t have. I have really looked at what I have, and learned to be more giving.

Q: What has been the biggest challenge for your group?

A: I have noticed there are many large families here in the High desert. They are struggling to have enough food and the kids with weather appropriate clothing. These kids should never have to go with out a jacket in the cold weather.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time? Any hobbies?

A: I love to cook and make desserts. I am so lucky to be able to stay home with my children, and enjoy every moment with them. I homeschool my 12-year-old.

Q: Where do you see Kid2KidCloset in 10 years?

A: In 10 years, I see Kid2KidCloset having our own location and helping even more children. Right now we are looking for a space large enough for us to hold our events. We were so excited when we found Hawthorn Suites, but we are outgrowing this space. We also hope to expand to parenting classes and helping teens that decide to keep their babies. We want to be able to provide all the necessities, so all they have to worry about is giving the baby love.

Q: What was the most interesting thing you have learned through the closet?

A: I have learned that with God all things are possible. When I trust in the Lord, he provides. I wouldn’t be able to do anything without all the wonderful gifts that God provides. All I do is help him. I praise him for all the clothing and items we have received.

Q: Do you have any role models? Who inspires you?

A: I think my biggest inspiration would have to be Sarah from my church. Her dedication to the Lord and her warm heart is inspiring. She is always giving of herself, whether it is time or prayer. She is always there to listen and pray for others.

Q: What are your dreams and ambitions for the future?

A: In the future I would love for the ladies that have dedicated so much time to our group to have a well deserved spa day. They have given so much of their time to the community, and I would love to see these ladies blessed for a day. They are always thinking about others, I would love to give them a day that is all about them.

Q: What are simple things you believe people can do to make a difference in their community?

A: Everyone can make a difference. Doesn’t matter how much money you have, or even how much time you have. Open your eyes to what the needs are around you. Even just simply asking, “How can I pray for you today?” It shows that someone cares. Many people lose hope when they are going through hard times. It can mean the world of difference if you take a moment to pray for them. You can give food and clothing; that is a need for the day. You can give Jesus and they will be set for life.

Information on the closet can be found online at www.Kid2KidCloset.com.

Rene De La Cruz may be reached at (760) 951-6227 or at RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com.

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