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Two-week clothing drive, ending Nov. 9, to help the ‘poorest of the poor’

Aaron Steiner | Tuesday, October 28, 2008

With the help of Notre Dame students and alumni, 50,000 pounds of donated clothing will make its way to Haiti and the Dominican Republic this December to clothe the “poorest of the poor,” senior Erin Wash said.

Wash, a member of the Class of 2009 Council, is helping to organize a two-week clothing drive that began Monday and will continue through Nov. 9. The drive is the primary initiative of a project called “Poorest of the Poor: A Call to Solidarity – Round Table Discussions and A Clothing Drive for Haiti” which began Sept. 30.

“It’s really for the poorest of the poor,” Wash said. For impoverished Haitians, “it’s a question of, am I going to buy food to feed my family, or am I going to buy clothing. Food always wins out,” she said.

The group is accepting clothing of all kinds in all dorms, and in bins in the LaFortune Main Lounge, the Graduate Student Office and the Law School Student Lounge.

In addition, the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore is accepting clothing donations, and students and faculty who donate clothes at that site will receive a coupon for a 20 percent discount off a T-shirt or sweatshirt, Wash said. Shoes, summer and spring clothes and clothes in sizes smaller than extra-large are especially needed, she said.

Senior Joey Leary, a member of the Haiti Working Group, said the drive is a type of short-term solution to a desperate situation.

“I think that most of us have more clothes than we need in our dorm rooms and at home, and with the changing seasons, it’s getting colder, it seems like a pretty reasonable idea to give one or two T-shirts to a population that has literally nothing,” Leary said.

“A longer-term strategy for clothing in Haiti is definitely needed,” he said, but for the time being, the donated clothing is “better in the hands of the Haitians than in our closets here.”

Wash said the clothing drive was an idea of Notre Dame 1972 graduate Paul Wright, a cardiologist with ties to Mother Teresa. Wright began coordinating clothing drives for impoverished countries after meeting Mother Teresa. He discussed the idea of a drive for Haiti with Wash in April during a conference at Notre Dame.

“He basically conceived this idea to do a joint clothing drive with the alumni and student body,” Wash said.

Wright began to develop the idea and Wash, along with class councils and members of the Haiti Working Group, a Notre Dame club, began to plan the campus drive and lecture series.

“Introducing a new clothing drive without any educational aspect makes it [more likely] to fail,” Wash said.

The group planned lectures and showings of two documentary films to help make students more aware about the situation in Haiti.

After the clothing drive is finished on Nov. 9, volunteers will help sort the clothing and load it onto a truck to be sent to Youngstown, Ohio, Wright’s hometown. Wright will take the clothing provided by the Notre Dame community and donate additional clothing he has collected from his drives – he has done drives for 20 years – to gather a total of 50,000 pounds of clothing, Wash said.

Two U.S. Air Force cargo planes, donated for the project, will transport the clothes to the Dominican Republic. About a third of the donations will stay in the Dominican Republic, with the remainder sent to Haiti, Wash said.

The clothing should arrive in early December, Wash said, when Rotary Clubs and other service groups will help distribute it.

Wash said that the Alumni Association has already collected 50 boxes full of clothing, totaling over 1,500 pounds, and she is certain that the Notre Dame community will collect much more in the coming days.

“Ideally, we’d be able to collect [25,000 pounds or more],” she said.