What Are You Doing with the Clothing You No Longer Wear?

Military support

The trip downtown was eye opening. The family of four attended the 7:00 pm Christmas Eve service and then decided to travel downtown Omaha to see the holiday lights. The more than 10,000 lights were installed and turned on the Friday after Thanksgiving, but a month later the family had still not made the visit they had made every other holiday season.
Dressed in their holiday best, including knee high boots with low heels, the two teenage girls were anxious to walk in the snow, get their pictures taken, and enjoy the lighted walkways and bridges. Just a few minutes from the car, however, the girls were surprised by what they saw. A family with three small children were also walking downtown, but they were not dressed nearly as nice. Still laughing and having a blast, this family of five ended up on the main bridge at the same time as the family who had just come from church. A closer inspection indicated that these three children were wearing coats that were stained and worn, shoes that were thin soled and old.
The brief encounter of the two families that Christmas Eve helped the family with the warm coats and fashionable boots rethink their priorities as they entered the New Year. As they unwrapped their presents the next morning, they could not help but think about the family of five who was very happy, but obviously a lot less fortunate.
What Are Your Priorities as You Start the New Year?
Whether you are making the decision to dedicate time to helping military families who love in the inner city, or you are volunteering at a donated clothing sorting site in the suburbs, many families look for opportunities to give to others instead of just accumulating more and more things for themselves.
In the year 2007, for example, Americans donated an estimated $5.8 billion in clothing and other textiles to charitable foundations. A simple monthly inspection of both closets and drawers can help any family limit their belongings and get in the habit of helping military families and others in need. In addition to helping those less fortunate, clothing donations also keep unused textiles out of already crowded landfills. In 2011, for instance, nearly 2 million tons of clothing and other textiles were either donated or recycled.
Where Can I Donate Clothes?
In addition to helping military families with clothing and other household donations, families can find several other groups that accept and distribute items to those in need. Consider the following list as possibilities:

  • Local church pantries. Several neighborhood churches maintain a well stocked pantry of household items and groceries. Fueled by donations, some of these locations also have personal care supplies and coats, hats, and scarves for families in need.
  • Homeless shelters. Many homeless shelters accept gently used clothing and household items. Sorting these items provides a paycheck for some of the temporary residents as they work to not only improve their own situation, but also prepare and organize clothing for others in the shelter.
  • School book and toy drives. Very often during the holidays, but also throughout the year, many school buildings collect both new and gently used books, toys, and sometimes even clothing, for families within their own school.
  • Local fire stations. In many cities, local fire fighters conduct toy, winter coat, and book drives. As a community fire fighter, many of these workers see on a day to day basis the people who most need these generously donated items.

Are You Part of the Problem, or Are You Part of the Solution?
Unfortunately, studies indicate 12 million tons of clothing and textile waste is sent to U.S. landfills every year. Does your family contribute to this incredible amount of landfill waste? Or, are you instead part of the population who works toward helping military families and others who are in need of the clothing you no longer wear, or the household linens you know longer use? Even if your unused items are too worn to be donated to others, these textiles can, at the very least, be recycled rather than thrown in the trash. Every little bit helps when you donate and recycle.

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