Updated: Jan. 25, 2018 at 8:25 p.m.
The Student Association and Foggy Bottom Association will hold a winter clothing drive next month at a local homelessness organization.
The two organizations plan to put donation boxes in areas across the neighborhood between Feb. 5 and Feb. 14 to collect winter coats, men’s jeans, gloves, hats and socks. Community and student leaders said the clothing drive – inspired by record low temperatures in the District earlier this winter – will help people stay warm when they can’t provide the means themselves.
The clothing will be given to people at Miriam’s Kitchen, a homeless advocacy organization based on Virginia Avenue near campus.
FBA President Marina Streznewski said the community wanted to do something to help people living on the streets, especially after the city experienced a prolonged, severe cold snap in late December and early January.
“Folks were seeing people out on the streets and instead of just being aggravated it turned people’s heart’s a little bit,” she said. “It opened their hearts.”
The FBA plans to promote the clothing drive using social media, posters and the group’s website. She added that the group doesn’t have a limit on how much they want to collect as long as there is a need for it.
Streznewski said churches like St. Paul’s Episcopal will also be holding collections at weekly masses. The FBA plans to reach out to Western Presbyterian and St. Stephen Marty churches to gauge their interest. She said she hopes the clothing drive will be a cooperative venture between members of the FBA, the SA and the faith community.
“I don’t think separating the students from everything else is a good idea,” Streznewski said at the meeting. “I think that the University could be a real resource and we need to work together cooperatively.”
Theo Leavell, the SA’s vice president of community affairs, said donations will be accepted across the community with collection boxes placed in central locations around campus like the basement of District House.
“The drive will provide an opportunity for GW students to support our community in a very tangible and practical way,” he said in an email.
He said students will assist in both the collection, sorting and delivery of these items and that the drive provides students with an opportunity to serve the community beyond campus.
“Winter months tend to bring the most severe weather,” Leavell said. “It’s our responsibility as a community to support folks in our neighborhood experiencing homelessness to make sure they have the resources they need and deserve.”
Scott Schenkelberg, the CEO of Miriam’s Kitchen – a community center that offers meals and services to people experiencing homelessness – said the homeless are vulnerable and in need of warm clothes like winter coats, men’s jeans, gloves, hats and socks.
“If they don’t have immediate intervention and ultimately housing, they’re likely to have premature death and die out on the streets,” he said.
Women’s clothing and formal attire like suits and ties are not requested for the drive because 90 percent of the people Miriam’s Kitchen serves are men, Schenkelberg said.
“We need women’s clothing but without requesting them, we usually get enough volume to serve the 10 percent or so of our population that are women,” he said. “We really only solicit men’s clothing.”
Schenkelberg said he hopes the clothing drive will not only benefit the individuals receiving much needed winter clothing, but will also help the Foggy Bottom community to care for and empathize with their “guests” in the homeless community.
Any leftover or unusable donations from the drive will be sent to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, Schenkelberg said.
“For them to have an opportunity to be able to contribute in some substantial way is always helpful and to understand what it’s like to live outside, what it’s like to not have a permanent address, what it’s like to rely on donated items,” he said. “Hopefully it will build some empathy for a lot of the guests that live in the neighborhood.”
After the story was published, Theo Leavell told The Hatchet that organizers of the clothing drive no longer plan to use the tagline “Love Thy Neighbor,” as was initially reported. The post has been updated to reflect the change.
Dani Grace contributed reporting.