Shining moments: Clothing exchange

The challenge of what to do with a simple pair of women's slacks eventually mushroomed into a major community event where hundreds of visitors come to our Baxter meetinghouse each year.

We were living in Alaska years ago when my mother-in-law sent two pairs of pants to warm my daughters during the extremely cold winters here.

But the pants were too large for our little girls, and there was no Deseret Industries store anywhere near, so they hung in the closet for a time. Then I happened to mention to the ward Relief Society president the shame I felt for perfectly good clothing going unused when it could be used by someone in need.

As we talked, one idea led to another until we noted how nice it would be to invite others to share clothing that they didn't need. The Annual Clothing Exchange in August was born.

Now 22 years later, the exchange continues, transforming the cultural hall into a giant clothing store for the better part of one day.

We invite members of the community to rummage through their closets to find clothing that is in good condition. It is set out, and from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., they are encouraged to take what is needed by their families.

Particularly impressive is that everything is free. Anything left over is donated to Operation Santa, a charity organized by the Alaskan National Guard during the Christmas season.

In past years, these exchanges have provided clothing to those newly arrived in Alaska without sufficient means to purchase clothing, as well as those who wish to update wardrobes.

The joy comes in watching children choose clothing they like, then telling them the clothing is free. One young man was excited to get new sweaters for school, while a lady found clothing needed for a job interview. At times over the years, I've thought to cancel the exchange. But phone calls have come from people expressing eagerness to find school clothing for their families.

We seldom know the circumstances of those who give and those who receive, but we know this is a way of doing good and a means of sharing of our surplus. — Lucretia Olsen, Chester Valley Ward, Anchorage Alaska Chugach Stake

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