In advance of the first Thanksgiving holiday since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in 2020, Tzu Chi volunteers in New York began to prepare for a series of winter distributions. The first was their traditional winter clothes distribution, which has a 25-year history.
After volunteers sort and clean the clothes donated by the community, they offer them to those in need, a process filled with love and blessings from start to finish, when care recipients leave wearing the warm gear they had lacked before.
Pre-Owned But Like New
Bags of winter coats were donated by New York residents, reaching more than a hundred collected within the month before Thanksgiving. Taking advantage of the weekend before the holiday, Tzu Chi volunteers hurried to clean and wash all the pre-owned clothes, preparing them for distribution to those in need. Tzu Chi volunteer Terresa Teh explained, “We clean all the clothes before the distribution.”
Although some people will wash, organize, and sort all the clothes at home before donating them, most had made sure to launder the items before giving them away this year due to the pandemic. Still, the volunteers took precautions, carefully checking each piece to ensure the clothes were in the best condition possible, and sending them for cleaning.
A Widow’s Care Brings Relief
One of the bags of clothing was donated by a lady who has been under Tzu Chi’s care as an individual case since volunteers began accompanying her during the difficult period following her husband’s death.
The widow’s decision to donate her husband’s clothes to the community was her way of coping, as through shifting her attention to the needs of others, she found some relief herself. Tzu Chi volunteer Shan Shan Chiang shared, “This way, the individual we help can also come out of grief… I’m really grateful. Knowing that we’re holding a distribution, she delivered them early this morning.”
After sorting the jackets into different categories, the volunteers packed all the clothes into bags for sending to the next stop, one for washing. There, the clothes belonging to the widow’s late husband would join many other donated items prepared for washing by teams of volunteers.
Loads Washed With Love
Volunteers brought the bags of donated winter clothes to a laundromat owned by Lucy Lu, who also happens to be a Tzu Chi volunteer. Since there are more customers during the winter, Lucy washed the winter wear jackets during the business’s off-hours.
To protect the clothes, she first sorted them again according to fabric, explaining as she worked, “This is wool; it will shrink when washed. This can’t be washed here.” Then, for those she could launder, Lucy divided the items by color to avoid washing certain hues together, “The red colors will fade, so we should wash it with the black ones, and the other colors are fine,” and so on.
Lucy has been running the laundromat for eight years already, and it’s open seven days a week, so she doesn’t have much time on her hands. But she utilizes her lunch breaks to volunteer with Tzu Chi. As long as there’s an opportunity to be of service to others, she cherishes it: