Note: This is a guest post from our friend Maranda, who has really stepped up to the plate to help us stay open. Expect to hear more from her soon. – HH
We have a donation clothing closet; it’s small, about the size of a descent walk in closet.
I imagine its previous lives as perhaps a small office, a small nursery room for infants, a storage room for assorted sundry. All of our clothing and shoe donations are sorted into this small room, which contains a mirror and some hand-lettered signs denoting “shirts”, “pants”, “shoes”, etc.
Volunteers have tried to keep it organized, but some shelves are so bare than whatever we have in excess fills in the gaps. Right now we have a lot of women’s size 7 fashion shoes. We hardly ever have men’s pants. When we do, men flock to the closet to replace torn, ripped, dirty and ill-fitting items for something that is more weather appropriate and durable.
Our donations come directly from the public, and we’ve seen some amazing things. We’ve gotten brand new Nike Jordan’s, new Timberlands, a Coach bag with the tags attached, a slew of IZOD sweaters in assorted pastel colors. We’ve gotten new Vera Bradley purses, Nautica T-shirts, prom dresses, stiletto heels, Doc Martens with no wear and silk ties. We have golf shoes, golf bags with no golf clubs, shirts from a local private school gathering, some suits, church dresses, Uggs and Chacos. For every donation that only has one shoe, socks with holes, an old rug, and my favorite, a framed poster of Eminem (the Real Slim Shady hangs in our Quiet Room), we get a donation fit for a consignment shop. All of these donations go straight to the community.
Shoes are important. When you walk everywhere you go, and folks shoo you off from all of the sitting places, shoes are your transport. When you get a job in a kitchen, closed toed kitchen shoes are required. If you get a job working construction, you need steel-toed boots. If you happen upon some landscaping work, hiking boots or mucking boots keep your feet dry.
Even if you don’t do any of these things, comfortable sneakers are your cab, bike and bus when fare is scarce. Even a donation of new bedroom moccasins can be put to good use, especially if it’s the only pair of shoes in your size, and we have someone wearing them gratefully until we can find him some landscaping appropriate boots in his size. Without shoes, you can get nowhere, and shoelaces are like gold around here.
Yesterday, a man we call “The Boss” (because he always dresses up, button down shirt and tie, every single day) showed me the bottom of his shoes. He had two large holes through the sole that had, in turn, worn two large holes in the same spots through his socks, and I could see the flesh of his bare feet. He walked on those holes until his socks wore through to get to the center in hopes that we had a pair of shoes in his size. I call that a “shoe-mergency”. We had luckily received a very nice pair of hiking boots in just his size that day, and I’m fairly certain, they’re nicer than your hiking boots. I know they’re nicer than mine.
They’re nice because someone who had enough material income decided to give their gently used, name brand boots to the center, and because of that person, The Boss has shoes and he won’t suffer blisters than can quickly get infected and turn into a medical emergency.
When someone approaches you, asking for bus fare, and you notice maybe that they’re wearing brand name shoes and a nice, clean button down shirt or a Nike T-shirt, please remember everything you’ve ever donated to help people living in poverty. Did you give them your stained T-shirts, or did you give them that really nice shirt your aunt got you for Christmas that wasn’t the correct size? Did you really purge your closet thinking “This is far too nice for homeless people”?
Chances are, you didn’t- you wanted to give some nice things; maybe you didn’t even think about how fancy that Ralph Lauren Polo shirt looked because you bought it at Marshall’s for $10 and never really wore it. Perhaps those baby blue Uggs didn’t go with a single thing in your wardrobe and you just wanted them gone. Whatever the reason, thank you.
Because of you, our guests have durable, quality shoes that will last through all of the hard times.
Tomorrow we’ll cross our fingers for men’s size 11, 12 and 13 shoes, because we have two men wearing flip flops with tube socks as their primary footwear. Tomorrow maybe one of our community members will help another with an extra bus pass. Maybe Jerome* will get that
landscaping job after he gets his shoes. And maybe someone with better shoes than you won’t need to ask you for bus fare tomorrow.
*names changed for privacy.