HARLEM — Growing up on Boston's North End, Stephanie Interbartolo, a media consultant, was used to kids dressing up in costumes and going door to door for candy on Halloween.
But when she moved to Harlem a few years ago, she noticed kids heading to trick-or-treat at local businesses and some not even wearing costumes.
"I love Halloween and I love kids," said Interbartolo, 40. "Halloween is a kid's holiday so they should be able to dress up and enjoy it."
That's why Interbartolo and her friend and neighbor Gina Raps, a classical musician and music teacher, began collecting costumes that they would hand out when kids showed up to visit a free haunted garden they organized next to their Manhattan Avenue brownstone.
"I wanted to donate the costumes we had collected, but I couldn't find any organization that was doing this," Interbartolo said.
When they gave one girl a $60 princess outfit and her little brother a M&M costume, the girl became teary-eyed.
"She couldn't believe it. She was instantly transformed," Raps said of the girl.
This year, Raps and Interbartolo have started earlier with the hopes of collecting more costumes for kids of their mixed-income neighborhood and all over Harlem.
On Wednesday, the living room of Rap's apartment was filled with donated costumes. There were three identical frog outfits, an alien costume and of course, the requisite princess get-up.
With two weeks until Halloween, the women have collected about 40 costumes but the demand for the outfits is much greater.
The goal this year, said Raps and Interbartolo, is to have costumes available in advance for kids or parents who need them, no questions asked.
The women's neighbors have gotten into the project, donating costumes.
"Everyone is rallying. They really want to help the kids," Raps said.
Anyone interested in donating a new or gently used kids Halloween costume may contact Stephanie Interbartolo at firstname.lastname@example.org or (917) 310-1730.