Rachel Caldwell, executive director of the Friday Night Supper Program at Arlington Street Church, said clothing donations there are sorted through with attention to individual needs.
“When people just want to do their spring cleaning and they fill a trash bag with everything they don’t want and just put it in what basically amounts to a Dumpster, you have no idea where it’s going,” she said. “When you donate to us, you know that what you are giving is going to literally go on the back of someone that you might see on the streets of Boston on any given day.”
Bethany Brichta, director of national external relations for Room to Grow, said families who receive clothing donations often pass them on to others in need once their children outgrow them.
“Turning clothing donations into cash produces a one-time support,” Brichta said. “Donating the clothing directly to low-income families through organizations like Room to Grow circulates the same goods twice or more over in the community, increasing the potential value of the donation, and also strengthens the community’s own ability to build resilience at the same time.”
Caldwell said it is important to ask agencies what their needs are before donating so that your clothing goes where it will do the most good.
“It’s important to make sure that you make contact with somebody rather than just dumping off a big bag,” she said.
Brichta said it is also helpful to reflect on whether the clothes are in good enough shape to be worn before donating them, meaning free of holes and stains.
Here are five places where lightly used clothing donations will be given to local children and adults in need.
Lightly used infant and toddler outfits can be useful at Room to Grow, which works to put low-income children on track to enter the school system on time. The organization, which recently opened a new family center in Dorchester, offers material and emotional support, parent coaching as early as the mother’s first trimester, and specialized referrals to community resources to local families. Room to Grow accepts clothing donations up to size 5T and shoes up to children’s size 10 in excellent condition, as well as baby monitors, diaper bags, blankets, and more. At this time, winter clothing items for children 3 months old, 6 months old, 24 months old, and 2T are urgently needed. Drop off donations at the Berkeley Street office between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, or on the first Saturday of the month, and call ahead to receive roadside assistance or schedule a donation in advance. There are also five other drop-off locations in Boston, Brookline, Charlestown, and Needham. roomtogrow.org, 617-859-4545
Another charity that focuses on low-income youth in the area is Cradles to Crayons, which serves more than 140,000 children in Massachusetts every year. By collecting new and nearly new clothing items through community drives and corporate donations and processing them in a warehouse, the organization creates packages containing wardrobe essentials personalized for children up to 12 years old. Cradles to Crayons accepts donations of clothing and coats in youth sizes 0-20, and adult sizes small and medium. Shoes, boots, sneakers, and sandals in child sizes 0-13 and adult sizes 1-10 are accepted as well, among other items such as books, school and art supplies, and more. The items currently needed the most are shirt sizes 2T-12, sweaters, and boys pants sizes 4/5-7/8. Use your ZIP code to search nearby drop-off locations online. cradlestocrayons.org, 617-779-4700
Arlington Street Church’s Friday Night Supper Program serves approximately 150 meals to people in need each week but also provides clothing donations to visitors who request them. The program accepts lightly used men’s and women’s clothing and shoes, and particularly needs sizes medium and up in clothing. Blankets, backpacks, and toiletries are also accepted. Drop off donations in the church’s basement between 12 and 7 p.m. on Fridays. fridaynightsupper.org, 617-536-7050
Second Chances, an organization that provides clothing, shoes, gift cards, and accessories to homeless and low-income people in Somerville and Cambridge, has helped more than 2,500 people and reused more than 700,000 pounds of clothing since its founding in 2005. The charity accepts “just about anything that is still wearable,” including all children’s, women’s, and men’s sizes of casual, work, and dress styles. Similar to Cradles to Crayons and the Friday Night Supper Program, Second Chances sorts through clothing to create customized donations based on clients’ requests. Pick any of seven drop-off locations in Arlington, Cambridge, and Somerville. secondchances.org, 617-660-0280
Solutions at Work, also in Cambridge, has a children’s clothing exchange program and provides professional wear to low-income men and women enrolled in job-training programs through SolutionsWear. Founded by homeless individuals, the organization aims to break cyclical poverty in the Greater Boston area. Winter children’s clothing, lightweight strollers, men’s suits and dress shoes, plus-size women’s suits, and more are needed most at this time, and lists of acceptable items are available online. Donations can be brought to Solutions at Work between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday. solutionsatwork.org, 617-576-0039Abigail Freeman can be reached at email@example.com.