Clothing ministry seeks more donations to meet increased need

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Shelly Birkelo
Wednesday, July 10, 2013

JANESVILLE--The donation closets at Orchard View Alliance Church were so full last year that volunteers struggled to open the doors.

This year is a different story.

"We're only averaging one or two donation bags a week," said Pat Schwab-Markley, volunteer of the monthly giveaway at the west side church.

But while donations are down, need is up, Schwab-Markley said.

"A lot of people are coming to Janesville with absolutely nothing and literally only the clothes on their backs or what they could load up in their cars," she said.

She is aware of people moving here daily and needing help, she said. They include a pregnant woman with no baby supplies, a family who couldn't afford a moving trailer, a homeless man and a woman who left an abusive situation and had no clothing for her children.

"You just can't imagine these sad stories I'm hearing. You could give things away every single day to these people," she said.

But the clothing ministry, a program of the nonprofit Love INC, conducts giveaways from 1 to 2:30 p.m. the third Thursday of each month.

Those who seek help are primarily from the Janesville area and arrive at least an hour before the doors open. They often are looking for clothing, shoes, bedding, blankets and sheets, Schwab-Markley said.

"When we open the doors, usually 100 to 150 people come in during the first 10 minutes--207 was our highest. It's a stampede for 20 minutes, and the place is packed for an hour," said Sandy Crookshanks, volunteer.

"The clothing is gone between 1 and 2 (p.m.); especially children's clothes," said Liz McClellan, volunteer.

Schwab-Markley said donations are down because many people in the Janesville area still are unemployed and hurting financially. Instead of donating items, they are selling them at garage sales. Many people aren't aware of how or where they can make donations, she said.

Since the giveaway started in September 2012 at Orchard View Alliance Church, the volunteers have gathered for a couple hours three times a week to sort donations. Now, they sometimes are there for only an hour before going home because there are so few donations to sort.

Monday morning, the volunteers had plenty to sort because a Janesville church that held a rummage sale last week donated what didn't sell, the volunteers said.

“The goal is to reach as many people in need as possible," said Arlene Dmuchowski, volunteer, as she folded clothes.

Schwab-Markley wants those in need to know they don't have to meet any income guidelines or fill out any paperwork to receive clothes, shoes, towels and bedding.

"It's all given away without questions asked,” she said. “Just take what you need instead of going without."

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