This month I'm doing a November Organized by Melissa Challenge on my Organized by Melissa Facebook Page. I'm encouraging everyone, myself included, to let go of at least 1 item every day from the abundance that you've gathered throughout your life. That harvest that may be causing you stress when it turns into clutter. Whether it's something to sell, donate, throw away or recycle doesn't matter so long as you're moving it out of your home & allowing yourself to create the oasis space you deserve and crave. Posting daily I'm setting small attainable goals that lead to bigger systemic changes. As I've thought about the idea of sharing your harvest with others I realized that it doesn't have to be something we only do when we have an abundance of material wealth. It can be something we do even when we're in need ourselves. It's at that time that it fills our cup in another way, it lifts us up to help others. That feeling is priceless. Veteran's Day couldn't be a better day to give thanks for those that give through service even from poverty. My mind also goes to a journey of mine that started with the New Year.
At the start of this year I pushed myself to give back even more than I had before in the ways that I can even with the small amount of time I have to give. One of the connections I've made is with the Cathedral of Saint Andrew's Clothing Center in the Heartside neighborhood of Grand Rapids. I live in this neighborhood, go to church at Saint Andrew's & have become a Liturgical Minister there. When I found out that the Clothing Center gives away the clothing & toiletries to those in need for free I thought, "I can help and so can my clients." I spoke with the former Rector, Father John Geaney, and learned that my idea was welcome. Donation drop off is a service I normally charge for but for my clients that opt to donate to the Cathedral's Clothing Center I've volunteered my time to get their donations to the Parish Office for them. To date, I've dropped off 43 containers of clothing, shoes and toiletries that my clients of all religions have donated to help those in need that are also of all religions. Every single time I drop off boxes and bags filled with their generous donations it lifts me up. The very act of helping others help others is priceless to me. It rejuvenates my drive for why I am a Professional Organizer, why I volunteer and reminds me that no matter how hard things are in my life I can always give to others.
Ironically, or not so ironically, the reading I did at Mass this morning as a Liturgical Minister was about that very thing. When I first read the reading I was to do I cried. It spoke to me in this very moment in my life in a way I needed. It reminded me as well of the work of the Clothing Center and the Challenge I'm doing on my Organized by Melissa Facebook page. It's a reading about a humanitarian message that took a great leap of faith by a widow with nothing in the midst of drought sharing the last of her harvest with Elijah when he told her to do so. It's a story about the possibility of all that God can do for us when we have faith that the jar of flour and the jug of oil will not go empty. No matter your faith this message is one we all need to remember: believe in miracles. If you'd like to watch the reading I did the televised Mass can be found here; it starts at minute marker 9:13. The message of Father René Constanza shares is worth a listen as well. Please copy & paste the link into your web browser to watch:
Earlier this summer the last location of the Clothing Center was deemed uninhabitable and the Center had to move to a new location with a very different layout. When I heard the news I asked Father Michael if I could set up a tour of the new space to write about the Clothing Center and those they serve here in my blog to help spread the word. He connected me to Don Walsh, the volunteer that runs the center, and we set up a time for a tour which I did last week. It was a joy to meet Don in person, he's been very supportive of my business on social media, and to see the fruits of his labor supported by the team of volunteers. The Clothing Center reopened in it's new location last week on the 8th a few days after my tour.
The day I was in the space it was in the last phases of being put together. I was struck by the organization of the rooms and how thoughtful Don was as he walked me through the space. He showed me the areas where the clothing, shoes, bedding and toiletries are set up which you can see in the photographs I took. This is truly a story of giving others your abundance as all but the toiletries are donated. The toiletries are purchased new however, if you have new that haven't been opened they will take those as a donation. The Clothing Center is ran by volunteers, Don has been there for 20 years and another volunteer is the most senior serving for 30 years. Don shared that many volunteers are in their sixties so in time they will need younger people to step up, something he plans to talk with the Parish Office about soon. We talked about how Heartside is home for him even though he and his wife don't live there they've both worked, volunteer and go to church downtown. They know the area well and he loves giving back to our neighborhood. I shared with him that I feel the same way as a resident.
This is the first station for those in need. Things are sorted by category, clearly labeled.
As we continued on the tour we came to the toiletries room that's still being set up with some shopping left to do.
Here we talked about the stories of those in need. Many of the people that the Cathedral's Clothing Center help are often in social situations that can't be entirely helped due to circumstances that are beyond their full control or they have fallen ill or dealt with extremely difficult health situations setting them back to the point that they need some help to get through. The stories make Don choke up a bit as he mentions them to me and I felt the pull to continue to help in anyway I can. The Center is giving those in need hope, support at a time when they may feel they have no where else to go. It lifts them up and reminds them they are people worth caring for. This sign caught my heart and my eye, very meaningful to me as well.
As we continued the tour I learned that there are several things that the Clothing Center often needs that they don't have enough of. One are reading glasses.
Another are sheet sets and bedding.
The last that surprised me was children's clothing. They can't keep enough in stock. They serve families that are very large, often immigrants, and the need for children's clothing is high. This was surprising to me not because of the need being high but because I feel the supply should be high as well; I know from my work as a Professional Organizer that there's a lot of children's clothing being moved out of homes in the area. This small section in the photograph below is all they have for the children. I hope to help fill this need of the Clothing Center with the help of my clients.
They also take men's suits and shoes because the men that Mel Trotter serve are required to go to church and in order to go to church they're required to have church clothing. Mel Trotter is also located in our neighborhood. Suitcases are another item the Cathedral's Clothing Center is in need of for the homeless.
Keeping a sense of humor, the volunteers placed these ties & t-shirt to make us all laugh. I love Will Ferrell and the movie Elf and got a kick of the shirt being in a prime display spot.
The last part of the tour included the room with the women's clothing and then the hall with the women's shoes. Don showed me the back room reserved for the volunteers to process donations as well.
This is Don, the faithful volunteer leading the Clothing Center to help those in need. I felt grateful to spend some time with him. As I left the Clothing Center the clouds parted and blue sky and sunshine poked through when the weather report said it wouldn't, "A good sign," I said to Don.
The cute porch greets the patrons of the Clothing Center. I felt my heart lifted as I walked down the stairs. If you have new or gently used donations please drop them off at the Parish Office located at 215 Sheldon Blvd. SE Grand Rapids, MI 49503. Their hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9am-4:30pm and Tuesday/Thursday 9am-1pm. If we organize together I'll bring donations in for you. Let's share our harvest so that no one's jar of flour or jug of oil goes empty.