This vital ministry has continued to grow as a resource for the community, as an employment opportunity, and as a vehicle through which a large coalition of community organizations can collaborate in service. A core ministry of Friendship House, the Clothing Bank of Delaware has three primary missions. First, it serves as a clearing house for the collection and distribution of donated clothing and a delivery service to those community agencies in direct contact with individuals and families in need. Second, it provides entry level employment and training to women re-entering the work force. Third, it creates volunteer opportunities for churches, businesses and community organizations.
Upgrading The Distribution Process
The traditional means of freely distributing clothing to the poor in this country has been the church clothing closet. Unfortunately, this ministry faces several logistical problems that makes many churches reluctant to enter the field. The first is that people tend to donate clothing out of season, i.e. their summer clothes at the beginning of winter and their winter clothing at the beginning of summer. Most clothing closets do not have adequate space to store such seasonal clothing until it is needed. The second difficulty is one of recycling unusable clothing. Donated clothing can be divided into three general categories: domestic quality (usable, in-style clothing desired by needy Americans), foreign quality (usable clothing in great demand overseas) and rag quality (damaged or unusable clothing capable of being converted to rag or paper). Most clothing closets can only use domestic quality clothing. The rest must be disposed of, often at the clothing closet’s expense. A central warehouse like the Clothing Bank has the space to store out-of-season, domestic quality clothing until it is needed and the volume to recycle foreign and rag quality clothing through sales to for-profit rag merchants or through shipments to the foreign missions.
Providing Entry Level Employment For Women In Need
Most entry-level labor intensive employment is controlled by temporary employment agencies who have little desire to see their workers graduate to more permanent, better paying jobs. A very high percentage of such day labor jobs go to homeless street men. Jobs for women with limited job skills and a scattered work history are not in great demand. While Welfare Reform offers a solid, one shot opportunity for job training and placement, the bottom line is that there is an ever-growing number of poor women in New Castle County who no longer qualify for such public-sponsored programs. While faith-based ministries like Friendship House are committed to filling the gap with privately-funded recovery programs, there is a dire need for employment partners who will provide such program participants with entry level jobs. The Clothing Bank is able to provide not only entry-level jobs to women as sorters, but also more advanced job training in customer service, warehouse management and marketing.
Through an empowering 15 week training program, the participating women will work to rebuild their reputations, renew their spirit, and reinvent themselves by discovering their potential. The women learn good work habits, fine tune basic job skills and receive job search support through resume development, polishing interviewing skills and application assistance.
While organizations like Friendship House already enjoy a high level of volunteer participation in their ministries, there remains a high demand for entry-level volunteer opportunities. Most successful starter volunteer projects tend to be:
- Easy to organize and understand,
- Flexible enough to fit busy schedules,
- Task specific,
- Group oriented and
- Time efficient.
Such projects give volunteers the opportunity to try out the waters without making a life-time commitment. They understand that most folks would like a chance to wade around in the shallow end of the human-service pool before diving into the deep end. As with our homeless clients, Friendship House believes in accepting our volunteers where they are and not demanding of them more than they are ready to do. The Clothing Bank offers multiple entry level volunteer projects in the form of collection drives at work or church, sorting clothes at the warehouse and delivery runs to various local distribution sites. If you would like to volunteer with our Clothing Bank, please email us or visit our Volunteer Page for more information.
The Clothing Bank of Delaware
1603 Jessup St. Suite 3, Wilmington, DE 19802
Monday – Thursday from 7:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Elsmere Presbyterian Church
606 New Road, Elsmere, Delaware 19805
What to donate?
- All adult and children clothing
- Leather good (shoes, belts, purses)
- Bedding (sheets, pillow cases, blankets)
- Linens (towels, wash cloths)
(All donations should be clean and ready to be distributed to the community. You do not need an appointment to drop off donated clothing but please do bring them during operating hours! We prefer to not have clothing sitting outside unattended in the elements.)
Kathy Griffin Graham, Director
1603 Jessup St. Suite 3
Wilmington, DE 19802
Located in the Gateway Industrial Center on the corner of Jessup and Vandever Ave.
Hours: 7:00 AM – 3:00 PM (Monday Thru Thursday)