Many Hands

April 17, 2012
Lucy Smith Uniting America AmeriCorps Fellow

Late Wednesday night at the Community Clothes Closet, poking through some clothes, wondering what it’s all about. The Pastor Cyndi Gavin is excited to have me help out with some clothing organization and I am happy to do so, but the workload is daunting…there are clothes everywhere, on racks, in boxes and in bags; it’s hard to know what goes where! I am happy to straighten and dust, sift through some bags and hope that some kind of order emerges.

As Cyndi returns to her work I am left to my own devices. The church is cozy and welcoming, the right place for a Community Clothes Closet! On the first Saturday of the month, St. Johns opens its doors to the community and invites them to select 5 items of clothing per family member. With hospitality and an open heart the volunteers serve these shoppers with gusto making sure that the process runs smoothly. The real work though is in the prepping, and as I take in all the clothing and processing requirements, I find that I am overwhelmed!

Then there’s a knock at the door and a family comes in with two large bags full of clothes to donate. Maria speaks only Spanish and I jump in to help interpret for Pastor Cyndi. Maria brings with her her three small children, Janet, Maria Angeles, and Bryant. As I take down her information I interpret Cyndi’s comment that we are always looking for volunteers. Maria immediately asks when we need help and asks if she and her three children can help out right then and there! What a bold and beautiful request to help, right when I was needing it most!

I give them damp rags to clean the mounds of shoes as I tackle some clothing piled on one side. As they get acclimated I begin to speak with them and serve some animal crackers. How active and sweet the children are! Before long we are going through the baby clothes together, finding outfits and admiring the designs. As we are chatting, the clothes are being processed and hanged. The children help and laugh and play with the toys as the clothes pile quickly diminishes. After 2 hours hard work the rack is full and ready to be added to the shopping floor. 

Many hands make light work! Lesson learned: volunteerism is within each and every one of us, from the youngest to the oldest, across languages, cultures, and economic descriptors. What a joy it was to get to know Maria and her family, an unexpected boon to the Clothes Closet cause and a steward to the community!