TLC Clothing Bank
Open Tuesday – Thursday, 11am to 1:45pm
“If there is among you a poor man, one of your brethren in any of the towns which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to give him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.” —Deuteronomy 15:7-8.
For 25 years, our church’s members and friends have faithfully been opening their hands to fulfill the needs of the poor around the church in this town that God has given us. This is a long overdue glimpse into the labors of eight volunteers who toil unseen during each week of the year.
We know the numbers of visitors grows annually and that the word has spread. In the past several years, volunteers have heard guests referring to our Clothing Bank as the “Trinity Bon Ton” and, recently, the “Randolph Street Mall” when referring to the bountiful, highly organized, outstanding variety that is offered our neighbors.
When guests enter Trinity’s Clothing Bank in the order of their signup at arrival, they are asked if they have been to our Clothing Bank before. If so, a filed card is withdrawn to check on their address and their last visit (as guests can visit once a month). If not, then they are asked to show identification so a card can be made up with their information: the number of family members, their local address, and the date of their last visit.
Visitors are given two plastic grocery bags and reminded of the amount of “shopping” they can do on one visit each month. Each person in the family is allowed two outfits, made up of any combination of pants, shirts, blouses, sweaters, skirts, or dresses. In addition, they can select a jacket or coat, a pair of shoes, socks, underwear, and a purse. If they want to try clothes on, they do so in the rest rooms on that floor of the church.
Tuesday workers are Barb Shearer, Eileen Andrews, Vi Carlson. and Nancy Krueger. Barb Shearer came to Trinity when Dave and Nancy Krueger transferred eight years ago. She shared a time when a woman came in asking for underwear. When volunteers asked for her size, the woman said she didn’t know, as it had been so long since she owned some. Another time, Barb offered a man a razor, and he was so delighted he said, “I want to do something for you; can I give you a hug?” Another hug was given to the volunteer by a little girl after her mother found her socks and underwear for school at Trinity.
Eileen Andrews began working at TLC six years ago, works at the Clothing Bank on Thursdays as well as Tues- days, keeps a gifted orchid alive and blooming in the Food Pantry, and takes food weekly to a neighbor who can no longer shop. Eileen says that one Winter a man and woman came in looking for warm clothing. Although he did find overalls and a vest his size, there was no coat that fit him. The couple then asked if we had any blankets, because they were sleeping in a tent and everything they had was wet. They left with a warm, dry blanket. She says one time a man in his 40s came in asking for shoes. She showed him the one pair that was left in his size. They were new and shiny. He cried as he told her he had walked across town in his tight shoes, all the way praying TLC had some in his size. The greatest need, she says, is for men’s pants, boxer shorts, men’s shoes, travel- sized toothpaste, and deodorant and tooth- brushes. She notes that travel-sized hygiene products can be purchased at any Dollar Store. Eileen cautions that the Clothing Bank can’t use clothes that are dirty, badly stained, torn, or vintage.
Violet (Vi) Carlson began the Clothing Bank in 1993 with Edith Karsay, and has been involved ever since. She also has worked in the Food Pantry. She says, “I love to do it.” Vi takes home donated clothing that is torn or needs a new zipper or buttons. She said when she was growing up, her mother sewed everything her children wore. When her mother passed away, Vi was a senior in high school, so she took over the job of sewing. Vi made her own daughter’s clothes (suits, dresses) until she was 19 years old. Now her sewing skills have been repairing clothing for the poor over these many years. She says that in 1997, when the congregation was first asked to stock the Cloth- ing Bank with donations, clothing flooded in immediately and people even donated the commercial-style clothing racks now used. She explains that at first clothing was stored and dispensed in the Gathering Room on the third floor of the educational building, but was soon moved to its current location. Her observation is that the numbers of poor and needy have increased greatly over 25 years. and continue to do so, year after year. Vi, like all of our volunteers, feels the fellowship and comradely is “so wonderful.” She says, “it makes you feel good when people come in and get what they need.”
Nancy Krueger has worked in the Clothing Bank for seven years, and serves when needed on Thursdays as well as Tuesdays. Nancy says the work there is humbling. She once served a young man who had just been released from prison for driving while intoxicated. He said his wife had left him because of his alcoholism. He came to the Cloth- ing Bank that day because he wanted to have some clothes so he could look nice to go back home to Baltimore. He found clothes he liked that fit him. Then he said he didn’t have any money, and asked if Nancy could give him $2 for bus fare, and she did. The man thanked the volunteers and left. Two weeks later, he came back and told Nancy that he had been allowed to go back home and had even gotten his job back. Nancy says, “I get to work around some of the nicest people. I feel they are like a second family.”
Wednesday workers are Jean Price, Dorinda Roof and Kirklyn Kline. Jean Price began working at the Clothing Bank in 1997, and has continued for 21 years. Jean says she enjoys coming each week to do this work. She enjoys working with Kirklyn and Dorinda, friends who have formed a good team. Clothing Bank volunteers share one universal impression from their time with those in need of the basics: how things like toothbrushes, socks, coats, and underclothes are easily taken for granted by those of us who
have always had these things and are seeking another car, house, vacation, or retirement. Jean adds that “most of the people who come in for clothes are very appreciative and I enjoy talking with them.”
Dorinda Roof began volunteering 15 years ago, after she retired in 2003. She says helping those in need is very rewarding. She says it makes her especially happy when she can help someone, “like those who come in to find clothes to wear for getting a job. It’s great helping them progress in life.” She remembers “one woman who came in who had just finished chemotherapy and had lost all her hair. We happened to have a wig in the Clothing Bank. She was so happy.”
Kirklyn Kline began working in the Clothing Bank seven years ago. She says there are cases when a unemployed wife and mother comes in and says her child lost a filling, but she’s glad the tooth doesn’t hurt because she doesn’t have dental insurance; and cases when a husband spends all his money on his own hobbies and interests, neglecting his family. People who are grateful will say to the volunteers, “have a blessed day,” or “you’re so kind.” Kirklyn says wigs are donated from time to time. “Once a girl came in and explained that her abusive boyfriend had cut off all her hair; we happened to have a wig. She put it on and looked at herself in the mirror and cried.” She says that sometimes the visitors get very excited when they find a warm jacket, a blanket, or a sleeping bag, as the cold weather comes.
The Thursday workers are Judy Purdham, Eileen Andrews, and Nancy Krueger. Judy Purdham has been a volunteer working at the Clothing Bank since 1998, has worked with Vi Carlson over the years, and works at the Food Pantry on Tuesdays. Most of the volunteers agree that the homeless are the most heartbreaking. Their things get wet and stolen. How do they protect their possessions when they have no place to store them, no door to lock them safely in?
The supply of clothing and hygiene products continues to flow into the Clothing Bank from caring congregational members and friends, year after year. These workers keep records of all visitors, sort through the many boxes and bags of offerings, hang them on horizontal and round racks, fold items for shelves, hang purses, hats, and scarves, sort shoes and hygiene products, refold clothing after visitors have gone through the clothes, and send unusable clothing to Goodwill.
There are many other stories from the volunteer’s experiences over the years about the drunken, high, bitter, selfish, abusive, angry, greedy behavior of some visitors who have crossed Trinity’s doorsill for help. But Moses’ words in Deuteronomy say nothing about the ungrateful needy. They have their own personal demons to live with and, with God’s help, to conquer. The spirit of Moses’ words to us, however, are echoed by our Clothing Bank founder, Vi Carlson: “Most people are grateful. I do not have a problem with anyone; my heart is moved by every- one who comes in . . . it has to do with your attitude— treat everyone the same and do not take personal offense to their behavior and burdens. Just help them.” “Open your hand to give him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.” Amen and Amen.