Los Altos resident and Bellarmine College Preparatory junior Jacob Rogers and Serra High School junior Joseph Kaiser, co-founders of Vest and Veils, donated free First Communion outfits to children at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in East Palo Alto March 22.
Rogers and Kaiser, alumni of St. Nicholas School in Los Altos Hills, founded Vests and Veils in 2012 to meet the needs of two groups: families who struggle to purchase expensive First Communion clothing and families with used First Communion outfits searching for a place to donate them.
“We wanted to reach out to the community in a way that had not been done before,” Rogers said. “Vests and Veils is a unique program designed to help children feel special on an important day.”
Vests and Veils donated more than 500 dresses and suits, 200 pairs of shoes and an assortment of veils, shirts and ties to the St. Francis families. The teens transformed the St. Francis Parish Hall into a First Communion store, inviting families to browse the two dozen racks of freshly cleaned and pressed outfits.
The giveaway at St. Francis was the culmination of a year of collections from area churches, schools and organizations, including St. Nicholas, Our Lady of Angels and St. Catherine in Burlingame, St. Charles in San Carlos, St. Bartholomew and St. Gregory in San Mateo, the Italian Catholic Federation and the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Kindergartners at Notre Dame Elementary School in Belmont used proceeds from their lemonade stand to buy clothing to donate.
Last fall, the Vests and Veils team grew to include Presentation High School juniors Kathleen Langlais and Sami Oliva. At the March 22 event, the four teens and their friends provided personal shopping assistance to more than 100 children at St. Francis.
“Many families have multiple children celebrating their First Communion,” Kaiser said. “Outfitting several kids can be daunting. The families at St. Francis were incredibly grateful for our help.”
The teens said no one was happier than a little boy they nicknamed “Dancing Diego,” who was so excited with his new outfit that he couldn’t stop dancing and insisted on wearing his new suit home.
Vests and Veils plans another giveaway later this month.