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Saint Mary’s Costume Shop collect clothing for Winter Wear Drive

| Thursday, February 14, 2019

While many residents in South Bend layer themselves in thick sweaters and warm jackets to stay cozy in the cold weather, not everyone is so fortunate as to have the clothing necessary to stay safe as temperatures drop below freezing.

It was with these people in mind that Melissa Bialko, the head of the Costume Shop at Saint Mary’s and a professor of theatre at the College, came up with the idea for the Winter Wear Drive. Bialko said the drive collects used winter clothing to give out to those in need this winter.

“The idea came to me during the Polar Vortex,” Bialko said. “We can make a real impact on the lives of people who really need help, especially now when it’s so cold out.”

Every year the Costume Shop does a different service project along with all the shows they work on. Bialko said in the past the shop has visited schools to demonstrate proper stage makeup, made scarves and even made dog beds for local shelters.

Because of South Bend’s long, harsh winters, the Costume Shop will be collecting winter clothing as far in the future as spring break.

“The weather can be pretty crazy here,” Bialko said. “Even in March when you think it should be warmer, there is still a lot of need.”

After clothing is collected, student workers will repair and clean the pieces before donating them to local organizations such as Saint Margaret’s House and the South Bend Center for the Homeless.

Sophomore Grace Grueninger said she is enthusiastic about working on the Winter Wear Drive.

“I think it will be beneficial considering all the weather fluctuations that have been going on lately,” Grueninger said. “A lot of times damaged clothing just ends up thrown out or made into scraps. Sometimes it gets donated, but if there’s a lot of damage the old clothes just end up sitting on a shelf.”

The Costume Shop is in a unique position to help people escape the cold, Bialko said.

“A lot of people just don’t have the necessary skills anymore to make cheap clothes last longer,” she said. “We want to do this drive as a way to make life easier for the people who need it most and help lessen throwaway.”

Bialko said students are encouraged to donate to the Winter Wear Drive as well.

“I’ve had a number of emails about donating new goods or old items that don’t need repair,” she said. “Those will actually be helpful to us, because some items — especially those with zippers — are harder to repair.”

Freshman Jane Braverman said she was just glad to help.

“It always feels nice to help someone,” Braverman said. “We’re not doing it for the recognition, we’re just taking an opportunity to do some good in the world.”

Grueninger said she agreed with Braverman in that helping those in need is what matters most in the project.

“When you work backstage, a lot of people think that you go unnoticed,” Grueninger said. “But people really do notice good costumes and all the work that went into them. It’s a similar situation here. We’re not actively searching for recognition or praise, we just want to use the skills we have to help where we can.”

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