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The Community of Hope, a program which provides clothing for anyone in need of it, was started in 2013 in the fellowship hall of Living Hope Lutheran Church, 2855 W. Cadillac Drive in Farwell. It accomplishes this mission by accepting clothing donations and distributing them to those who need them – all free of charge. The program really took off, quickly necessitating a move to a larger building, and in 2016 a small office building was made available in Farwell with the only cost being for utilities.
The facility is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesdays of most months, providing clothing for families, men, women, children and babies. Also available are shoes, bedding, curtains, toys, towels and more. Additionally, the clothing received also goes to support local school students with what they need personally, clothing for drama club, as well as dresses for special events. [See adjacent box.]
Marian Spencer, who is hands-on making the program work, has been experiencing the crush created by donors’ generosity and a lack of square footage. Despite the great need, the abundance of donations has the current space bulging at the seams.
“The building we’re in right now is so small and deteriorating,” Spencer said. “The people are so wonderful, donating all these clothes and everything.”
She said the lack of space had recently forced her to postpone opening to the public on the regular days for a while and to ask that no more donations be brought until a later date. However, Spencer said that has not deterred clothing drop-offs, as evidenced by the 10 bags she discovered at the door shortly after her request to hold off.
“They were heavier than anything I can carry,” Spencer said, “And then another lady came and I had to tell her I had no place to put it – I’m rejecting people and I’m feeling terrible about it.”
That lady was referred to the Red Door Thrift Store and to Joshua’s House in the hope the donation would be accepted there. Spencer said that Community of Hope signs up about 60 people for each of the two times it’s open per month, but then asks them who theyare picking up for, listing them by age categories [as is done for the food giveaway].
“We average between 180 to 200 people that we help by the 60 people signing up,” she said. “And we have so many people who say, ‘You know, if it wasn’t for you, I don’t know what we would do.’”
Spencer gave an example of clothing costs, saying she is old enough to remember when a beautiful dress could be purchased for $20, but that now the same dress would cost $120. Answering that dilemma, formal dresses are loaned out to students for school dances. She added that many women come in early in their pregnancy to make sure they can secure baby clothes for when they’re needed. There also seems to be no gap in the size needs being met.
“We range from babies up to high school; and boys, the same thing,” she said. “We have a women’s area that has size 12 on down; small, medium and large clothes; and then we have extra-large on up to size 5X that we take.”
Spencer said sleep needs are also met with sheets, pillowcases and blankets – even pajamas.
Other items donated and available include toys, shoes, socks, underwear.
“They all go,” she said. “I mean they all go.”
Spencer said there has been talk of a new building for some time, and finally earlier in the year the process got started. She said the new building will be constructed on the church property, and although its position on the lot will require a little longer sidewalk stroll to get to it, the building will far better serve people’s needs. The expectation is to have the building done sometime in the coming spring, and before it is fully completed [i.e., bathrooms] have staff get into the building as early as possible to properly organize all those donated items that are choking the current site. Spencer also noted there will be a great need for hangers at the new building.
“If somebody has hangers specifically, or racks to hang the clothes on, we’d gladly take donations of those, too,” she said.
To reiterate, a new building is planned to house the Community of Hope program, which serves all who are in need, free of cost. To that end, this organization which exists solely to give to humanity is seeking some assistance in creating that space. The planned 32x72-foot building would house the clothing program, as well as an emergency food pantry. The anticipated construction cost is $150,000-plus, with the church able to match contributions up to $50,000. The Community of Hope is a 501(c)3 organization, which means contributions will be tax deductible.