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Dressed to fill! Relief workers say they’ve got too much clothing • Brooklyn Paper

Dressed to fill! Relief workers say they’ve got too much clothing

Overdressed: Shaniqua Smith, a volunteer at Red Hook Initiative, is surrounded by tons of clothing. Since Hurricane Sandy, relief groups have been inundated with clothing donations they can’t use.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Hey Brooklyn, not even hurricane victims want to wear your old mom jeans!

Sandy relief groups say they have been deluged with tons of clothing — and had to divert volunteers and use precious gasoline to cart some of it away — thanks to kind-hearted Brooklynites who graciously donated the shirts off their backs.

“While extremely well-intentioned, some people use it as an excuse to clean out their house,” said Cara Raich, who has been running the supply room at Park Slope’s Congregation Beth Elohim. “We have been inundated.”

Now they’re spreading the word that other items are needed more than clothing.

Toiletries, cleaning supplies and food are still in high demand in huricane-ravaged areas, but there is limited need for clothing aside from outdoor winter wear, organizers report. And though donation outposts say they are grateful for the outpouring of support, relief workers are saying clothes are becoming too much of a hassle — and offer little return on invest-gift.

“We didn’t realize the amount of work that is involved in sorting unlabeled clothes,” said Raich. “It takes forever.”

At the Red Hook Initiative, the back room is filled with pants, shirts, and sweaters, and volunteers have asked donors to stop bringing clothes, but it hasn’t worked.

“That doesn’t seem to stop many people,” said Sandy Brockwell, operations coordinator at the Red Hook Initiative. “We’ve been trying to get the Salvation Army to come by and take it all.”

At the Occupy Sandy main hub in Sunset Park, volunteers say they have the same problem, and are pleading with residents to bring stuff that’s really in demand.

“We have received an immense amount of clothing and we are putting that low on the list,” said Occupy spokesman Justin Wedes.

“We are trying to make sure people know that toiletries are much more needed.”

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com.

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