Tons of cast-off Lawrence clothes find their way to poor in foreign countries.
Matt Hill usually drives here from Leavenworth once a week so he can pick up a ton or more of old clothes.
On Fridays he stops at the Disabled American Veterans and Social Service League thrift stores, where from back rooms he retrieves scores of large, plastic garbage bags, each stuffed plump with about 24 pounds of apparel donated by Lawrence residents but later deemed unsuitable for resale by the charity shops. At least once a month he also stops at three other Lawrence secondhand stores where local residents donate or discard unwanted garments.
Hill is manager of the Disabled American Veterans Recycling Center in Leavenworth, which about four years ago began ranging all over eastern Kansas collecting old clothes from about 40 old-clothes graveyards.
The DAV recycling enterprise now gathers about 70 tons of reject apparel monthly in the eastern part of Kansas. A second DAV clothes recycling center in Great Bend likewise services western Kansas.
"We go north to Hiawatha, south to Parsons, west to Junction City and east to Warrensburg, Mo.," Hill said of DAV East.
Once the clothes are taken to Leavenworth, they are baled, 1,100 pounds to the bale, and then loaded on semitrailers, 38 bales to the truck, Hill said.
DAV sells the bales of sweaters, slacks, shirts and so forth by raw weight and then plows the proceeds back into the same sorts of aid financed by the organization's retail outlets. Hill said the old baled clothes produce a double whammy of good for the needy here and elsewhere on the globe.
"All the profits go to help Kansas veterans and their families," he said. "And another good side is that all the clothes go to Third World countries and people who will wear them."
The large-scale clothes recycling venture got started about four years ago, Hill said, after DAV began looking for a way to avoid the cost of paying landfill fees when disposing of the tons of old clothes coming its way.
"We had a lot of waste," he said, "and it gets expensive taking it to the dump."
At first the organization just baled up the left over clothes from its own stores. But then, Hill said, "we got to thinking that a lot of these little thrift stores couldn't afford to have their own hydraulic baler. Gradually, it just kind of snowballed."
Lawrence generates its fair share of forlorn threads.
"Lawrence is one of our highest-volume stores," Hill said. "I'll take 12,000 pounds a month out of our store here in the winter, about 20,000 in the summer."
According to Hill, those who clean out their closets may declare tax-deductible donations.
-- Mike Shields' phone message number is 832-7144. His e-mail address is email@example.com.