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Clothing Swap Ministry

Pastor Greg Thomas
Cornerstone Baptist Church
Danielson, Connecticut

The community of Danielson is located in northeastern Connecticut where the thriving mill economy collapsed some 40 years ago. We live in one of the poorest areas in the state. In our little town we have more than our share of poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity. The shelters are always filled, and the need is great.

Cornerstone Baptist Church has been working to make deeper inroads into our community in the hope of serving those for whom “making it” is a daily effort. To this end, our Sunday School leadership discussed ways that the children, especially the teen group, might be engaged in service to the community. Winter was quickly approaching, and we knew that many people in our area would not have appropriate clothing.

At a Sunday School teacher's meeting, one of our teachers, Gina Mills, brought up the idea of a clothing swap, based on a consignment business that she previously had. The idea for a free clothing swap was discussed and agreed upon by those in attendance, with the permission from Cindy Marcheterre, who heads up our Christian Education. Sandra Rukstela and Gina Mills worked together to develop a plan that included two weeks of drop-off time for clean, gently used clothing. Church members sent information to the Killingly Brooklyn Interfaith Council (KBIC), and placed posters in store windows, and at the local soup kitchen, local human service agencies, schools, and churches. Some members also spread the word through their own personal contacts via e-mails and even Facebook!

The clothing started rolling in. Bags and bags. So much in fact that the organizers were beginning to wonder what might be done with all the leftovers. But when the morning came for the exchange, families were lined up outside the church for an hour ahead of time. Mothers were able to get clothing for all of their children, adults who needed clothing for job interviews found suits and dresses that were appropriate, and those who needed something warm against the cold found that as well. There was something for everyone. More than 50 families were served that day, including some families from our own congregation. Organizers also culled out items that were appropriate for women staying at the domestic violence shelter.

There was very little left at the end of the day, and over the next two days, people who could not make it that Sunday were still calling to ask if there was anything left. “It was just overwhelming how much was donated and how much went out the door,” said Cindy Marcheterre.

"I was told, 'You are a blessing', but it wasn't me," said Gina Mills. "It was the coordination of all the people who brought in the clothes, sorted them, and greeted and helped those to "shop" for something and all the while putting them at ease. One man told me that he felt uncomfortable taking some jeans, but said he could use them for work. I let him know that if he needs them and can use them, to take them. Other people who hadn't heard of the clothing swap ahead of time felt as though they couldn't take without bringing something in, and they returned later (although they didn't have to) with their own clothes to swap as well."

The grateful tears, the love expressed by volunteers who drove some of the families home with their bags of clothing, the sense of accomplishment of the Sunday School students and teachers, and the deep sense of satisfaction that they really made a difference has impelled the folks who brought this mission to reality to plan to have a Spring/Summer clothing swap.

This is a wonderful example of how the church can be about building the Beloved Community of God.

For more information on this project, please contact Gregory Thomas at [email protected]

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