Waukegan Church expects large crowds at clothing distribution; “The Word’s Out” – Chicago Tribune

Walking into St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Waukegan on the first Saturday of the month, people might think they are in a clothing store, with shelves and tables of clothing and accessories for men, women and children. .

Customers at St. Paul’s monthly Clothes to You event may feel like they’re shopping as they browse the shelves with items sorted by style and size, but there’s a difference. There is no cash register as the merchandise is free.

St. Paul’s opens for its November Clothes to You giveaway from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at North Lewis Avenue Church, offering winter coats and accessories like gloves, boots and scarves for the premiere times this season.

Lil Langford, program coordinator and member of the Beach Park church, said there was a room for women’s clothing – adults and children – and men’s clothing. There is also a large hall with a variety of merchandise where the winter coats will be.

Since donations come in regularly, Langford said clothes for the appropriate season are displayed while summer items are now stored elsewhere in the church. There is a cart in the lobby where new arrivals are picked up, processed and possibly displayed.

“We keep the coats year-round,” Langford said. “We have hats, boots, scarves and gloves. They will probably all be gone on Saturday. The first hour is very busy. We limit the number of people inside at the same time.

A few children’s books and soft toys are there too.

Joanne Torogian, a Clothes to You volunteer and church member from Grayslake, said people start lining up as early as 6.30am, which is one reason for the crowd control.

“We have to limit the number of people inside at a time,” Torogian said. “Otherwise it would be chaos. Everyone wants to be the first.

When an acute need arises such as a fire or a person has mobility issues, Langford said people can make an appointment to go through the clothes. The church prefers this to be done when volunteers are working to prepare for the Saturday event.

All donated clothing is clean and spotless. Langford said they needed no buttons and had no stains. Items like this go to a textile recycler. Torogian fixed a stuffed animal.

“I saw the seam was loose, so I sewed it up,” Torogian said.

Since the program began in January 2020, Langford said she and other volunteers have gotten to know people by name. Customers have become donors — especially with children’s clothing — contributing undamaged items their children have passed.

“They want to give back,” Langford said.

In late 2019, Langford said the church received a call from Love INC, an organization that helps Lake County churches meet the needs of individuals, asking if St. Paul’s would like to donate clothing. One was made, it went well and it became a regular appointment.

The management of the program had some stumbling blocks. It started in January 2002, but the coronavirus pandemic caused a hiatus in March. It started again in July and took place in the parking lot. Langford said the outdoor event created awareness. Eventually it started working steadily. Finding clothes is not a problem.

“The word is out,” Langford said. “Now we get regular donations, and word continues to spread.”

Alongside the monthly Clothes to You event, Langford said there will be a Christmas Market from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Nov. 26 where holiday items — including tabletop trees, ornaments, candles, children’s books and more – will be available.

“We’ll have everything Christmas related,” Langford said. “There is a one bag limit.”

Langford said there are times when people come for clothing but have spiritual needs met before leaving. They want to pray and sometimes they want someone to pray with them. A quiet place is found.

Reverend Mark Rollenhagen, pastor of St. Paul, said when people seek spiritual and material help, it creates community. He may be present when a person seeks help or sometimes he may be a pastoral trainee.

“It becomes a place where they feel safe and welcomed,” Rollenhagen said. “When that happens, we build trust with our neighbors.”

After December, Langford said clothing distribution will take a two-month hiatus while volunteers get things ready for spring. It will reopen on March 4.

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