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When Sonia started her Summer Associate position with Hesed House, donated clothing was jumbled all together, making it difficult to quickly accommodate the needs of children and families. This summer, she tackled the disorganized mass of clothing. She secured a separate room for just children’s items; created a system to arrange donations by size, gender, and season; figured out what kinds of clothes were still needed and organized donation outreach; and created a sustainable strategy for the children’s closet that Hesed House will be able to continue long after Sonia is gone.

Sonia enjoyed the openness and individual responsibility of working on this project. “I wasn’t just set to one system or told what to do,” Sonia said. “I got to use my creativity and direct the project right from the beginning.”

Sorting donations brought new insight for Sonia about how people consider (or sometimes don’t consider) the actual needs of people and families who are homeless. “There were some things that kind of shocked me,” said Sonia, mentioning used underwear or high-heeled shoes. “People in the community are trying to be considerate and donate items, but I think sometimes they don’t think about what they’re donating beforehand. The people that stay here are homeless, but they’re still people; they’re not just going to take whatever you give to them. They have their own needs and priorities, just like everyone else. You have to try to understand the way they think.”

Sonia, who will start graduate school in the fall, talked about how setting up the Children’s Closet and helping with the day camp motivated her to work with children in grade school and high school in the future.

To make a donation to Hesed House, please see their list of current needs.

Want to learn more about our Summer Associates at Hesed House? Read about their impact here!

Marissa Diekhoff, Communications & Development VISTA at Housing Action Illinois