Somerville nonprofit partners with service providers to match used clothing with people in need
Do you need some motivation to get rid of those clothes taking up space in the back of your closet? Consider this: It’s relatively easy for you to get those clothes into the hands of people in our community who could really use them.
Second Chances is a Somerville-based nonprofit organization that partners with local housing, shelter, and service providers to match used clothing with people in need.
“People need clothing to get housing and to get jobs and to go to doctors’ appointments and those types of things. That’s one of the most basic needs that they have,” said Andrea Shapiro, founder and CEO of Second Chances.
In 2003, the Somerville resident was working as a consultant with affordable housing and community development agencies. She noticed that some of the organizations providing services to low-income clients were accepting in-kind donations of clothing and sometimes housewares and furniture, because their clients needed them, but it was a challenging task for those organizations. It could be hard to match donations with the things their clients needed, and they didn’t have space to store a lot of clothing, much less furniture.
So Shapiro thought about how she could help these organizations provide this important service.
“What we do that’s different from a lot of the other programs is that we work with the nonprofits, we don’t work directly with clients,” she explained. Second Chances handles the logistics so that Somerville Cambridge Elder Services, Somerville Housing Authority, Vinfen, On the Rise, and numerous other organizations serving low-income residents of Somerville, Cambridge, and neighboring communities can get the donated clothing to their clients.
For example, Second Chances partners with RESPOND, Somerville’s domestic violence prevention agency. When a new client comes in to RESPOND, “they often come in with next to nothing, you know, the clothes that they’re wearing, and sometimes a child with them,” Shapiro said.
“First of all, we have an emergency closet at RESPOND that we supply, that has some real basics, like a couple cardigans, a couple of cotton T-shirts, some leggings, a box of shoes,” she explained. Beyond the emergency supplies, the client tells RESPOND what they need, and RESPOND will submit a request to Second Chances.
“Give us a description of the individual, tell us what colors they like, and tell us what the top 10 things they need are. And they tell us what season they’re for, what kinds of activities a person might be participating in that they need clothing for—because clothing for everyday wear is different from clothing for someone who’s doing a job search, or going to court,” Shapiro said. “And then we pick up the clothing from our storage and we deliver it to the shelter or program.”
Second Chances currently serves about 400 people a year, including all ages and genders. They provide clothing for any season and for all kinds of activities: work wear, athletic wear, everyday clothes, even maternity clothes.
About 90 percent of their clothing currently comes through their donation bins, Shapiro said. “It’s been so different during COVID. Because everyone’s clothing needs at the donor level have changed, and people spent a lot of time cleaning out their closets. So clothing supply has actually expanded over the last couple of years.”
On the other hand, clothing drives in workplaces, congregations, and schools stopped for a while. “They’re really starting to pick up recently, with folks returning to the workplace and wanting to give back, wanting to do team building activities,” Shapiro said.
Donated clothing should be in good condition. “We’re looking for things that are wearable, that are esteem building, that you would give to your sister or good friend, and feel good about seeing them wear it,” Shapiro explained.
Second Chances generally receives enough high-quality clothing to meet their clients’ needs, she said. “Our greater challenge is raising the funds to support the activities of the organization.” Their current staff is just one full-time and one part-time, but they’re hoping to hire another half-time person this year.
Building their capacity requires money, but because they’re so small, organizing an annual fundraising event is beyond their capacity. So they generally have events once every five years. They were planning their 15th anniversary party to take place in 2020, but it was postponed by COVID. They decided to go ahead with it this year.
“We were sensing a real need for folks to get together face to face and just have some fun and reconnect. And so we did decide to have it, instead of scrapping it or doing a virtual event,” Shapiro said.
Spring Refresh 2022 will be held next Wednesday, May 18, at Warehouse XI, 11 Sanborn Court in Union Square, featuring food and beverages, textile art activities, music, games, and more.
“The good thing about Warehouse XI is that it has big doors and windows that can be opened, so we’ll have good circulation,” said Shapiro. “I think we’ll be at half their stated capacity, so it will be fairly roomy. And we will have outdoor activities as well. People can’t drink outdoors but they can play games and they can eat.”
Today’s the last day of early-bird pricing: Tickets will be $70 after May 10.
For more information visit www.secondchances.org/springrefresh.html.
Photo credit: Andrea Shapiro (founder and CEO) and Jessica Callaghan (program manager) sort donations at Second Chances. Photo by Kat Rutkin.
This article is syndicated by the Somerville Wire municipal news service of the Somerville News Garden project of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism.
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Linda Pinkow is a reporter for the Somerville Wire. She is also a development consultant for the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism.