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Votes

Another Man’s Treasure

Donated goods at the Interfaith Clothing Center get a second chance.

Potomac residents Steve Chojna and his wife, Melissa Hsia, stopped by the Potomac Community Center on Thursday to donate clothes to goodwill.

“It’s even better than recycling — it’s reusing,” said Chojna.

“It’s better knowing that your unused items are going to be of use somewhere to someone than sitting in a landfill,” Hsia added, as she flung her donation into a green metal bin.

It’s a simple concept, but a complex task, explained Julie Maltzman, director of the Interfaith Clothing Center in Rockville.

“[The process] can be quite labor-intensive. We got over $2 million worth of goods last year, and they had to be sized, labeled, sorted, and displayed.”

Yet Maltzman and hundreds of generous donors, volunteers, and participating schools, businesses, congregations, and service groups throughout Montgomery County agree that the program is anything but a burden.

It’s a “very fulfilling thing,” said Maltzman.

The Interfaith Clothing Center of the Community Ministry of Montgomery County redistributes donated clothing and household items to area low-income families throughout the year. In Montgomery County, said Maltzman, the high standard of living can make it very difficult for some families to live without help.

The Center has a partnership with the Clothing Recycling Company, the organization responsible for handling twenty-eight large green collection bins in Montgomery County. Throughout the year, Potomac residents can drop off donated goods at various sites in the area: Behnke Garden Center, St. Francis Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church, Potomac Community Center, Potomac Methodist Church, and St. James Episcopal Church.

The Clothing Recycling Company distributes most of its collected goods to the Interfaith Clothing Centers located in Rockville and Gaithersburg. Clients involved in a low-income program can come to these facilities every other month and take as much as they would like, free of charge.

Throughout the year, the Interfaith Clothing Center collects a variety of clean, gently used or new items, with the exception of computers and furniture. People donate household appliances, books, clothing, shoes, sheets, toys, curtains, pots and pans, and towels.

Most appreciated are extra-large-sized clothing and teenage clothing.

“Everything possibly imaginable comes here,” said Maltzman. “It’s such a generous public, and we get so much that we have plenty of high-quality goods to give.”

In the fall, the center donates new school supplies to hundreds of children in low-income families. Over 1,700 supply-filled backpacks have been distributed. Kids also receive toys to celebrate their birthdays.

During the colder months, the center collects clothing appropriate for the season, like gloves, mittens, and hats.

The center also offers infant layettes to expectant mothers, complete with the essentials for a new baby. “We want to welcome children born in Montgomery County as we would welcome a new neighbor,” said Maltzman.