By Erin Hoesley
Fashion International President Megan McDonough faced a surprising problem when donating clothes to Thurman Brisben Homeless Shelter.
The donations were rejected.
Over the past few weeks, Fashion International organized a campus wide clothing drive to help the homeless in the Fredericksburg community. McDonough, senior, and Vice President Maliha Adams, junior, considered several shelters in the area before choosing to donate to Thurman Brisben Homeless Shelter.
“They were anxious for donations,” Adams said.
Kim Lally from Brisben Shelter shared why.
“With the weakened economy our financial contributions are down by 40 percent and our need for assistance is up almost 20 percent,” Lally said.
Adams spoke previously with Lally who was excited for the help from the Mary Washington community.
“We usually receive more volunteer assistance than out of hand donations,” Brisben Center’s Kim Lally said.
After speaking with Lally, Fashion International thought they had made the right choice in choosing Thurman Brisben as their donations recipient.
“They were open to anything we could donate.” Adams said. As long as the items were gently worn with “nothing graphic,” Adams was under the impression that Thurman Brisben would be happy to receive it.
Thurman Brisben also had a need that the UMW community could satisfy.
“I asked [Thurman Brisben] who frequented their shelter and they said adult males,” Adams said, meaning adult male winter clothes was the most needed item during the course of the drive.
It was also convenient that Brisben shelter needed primarily adult clothing.
“Students would probably have to go home to get children’s clothes,” Adams shared, so collecting adult clothes was a bit easier.
McDonough and Adams said that they have received plenty of donations from both boxes around the residence halls and from faculty. McDonough said that some faculty members have donated large bags full of unwanted clothes. Adams said that her dorm room became overrun with donations gathered around campus.
Fashion International’s role in the drive went beyond simply collecting the items.
“We definitely had to wash and prepare everything before we donated,” Adams said.
McDonough and a friend personally went to Thurman Brisben with the donations.
However McDonough found out that not all Thurman Brisben employees were as helpful as Lally was.
“I called [Thurman Brisben] last Thursday to let them know I was coming the next day and that I was delivering a lot of clothes,” McDonough said. “The woman kind of acted like she was doing me a favor.”
McDonough said she called fifteen minutes prior to driving to Thurman Brisben with a van full of clothes to donate. When she arrived at the shelter a different employee gave her a shock.
“She just told me flat out that they’re not accepting any donations,” McDonough said. “She said their donation room was completely full.”
McDonough wondered if this was helpful to the people who stay at the Thurman Brisben shelter.
”I don’t know why the clothes are just sitting in a room,” McDonough said. “I’m kind of confused [as to] why they’re not giving them to the homeless.”
McDonough then had to make a decision for the mass of clothes that were piled in a borrowed van but nowhere to be donated.
“By the time we had all the clothes in the car it was 6 p.m. and we didn’t have very many options,” McDonough said.
She called the number of a shelter in downtown Fredericksburg, but was unable to speak with anyone.
“We didn’t really think of plan b or plan c because we really didn’t think we needed to have those,” McDonough said.
Soon, McDonough found a solution.
“We ended up going to Goodwill and they gladly took them.”
McDonough says the important thing is that the clothes are going to people who need them. But she is still confused by what happened at Thurman Brisben.
“I couldn’t believe that they were rejecting donations,” she said.
Despite this obstacle, Fashion International plans to hold more clothing drives in the future.
“We want to make it biannual and have it every semester, and have a drive for spring clothes and winter clothes,” Adams said.