Sharon Mohr is the friendly, smiling woman who greets you in the free clothing area at The River Food Pantry. When Sharon first volunteered at The River in the fall of 2013, she was retired from the state and had done some volunteer work on political campaigns. Sharon was introduced to The River Food Pantry at a Weight Watchers meeting. “They gave us a challenge; ‘for every pound you lose, give a can of food to a pantry’ and after a little discussion, we decided on The River for our donations.” About a week later, Sharon saw an article in the newspaper about The River and was convinced to donate her time as well.
What keeps Sharon coming back to The River is the fact that she grew up poor, but didn’t realize it at the time, because “everyone was poor back then.” She also keeps coming back for the people. Sharon tells the story of a young couple, visiting The River for the first time. The two had been married for a couple of years, both had good jobs, and they decided to start a family. At the same time, the young woman’s mother got sick. Then, on the day she found out she was pregnant, her husband lost his job. Between caring for her mother, and dealing with her own morning sickness, the expectant mom missed some work and lost her job too. When she walked into the free clothing area at The River, it was to find an outfit to wear to job interviews scheduled for the following week. As she picked out an outfit, her husband got a message that he too had a promising job interview to prepare for. Sharon never saw the couple again, and can only assume that the interviews were successful and that they have been able to get themselves back on solid ground financially.
Sharon describes the free clothing area when she first started volunteering at The River; “if you wanted to find women’s pants…well, look around and see what you can find.” Being an extremely organized person, Sharon took it upon herself to bring order to the clothing area. Now when you walk in, everything is hanging neatly on hangers, with clothing grouped according to size and gender. Sharon has also formed alliances with other Madison area non-profits, so when The River has too much, clothes can be shared with others or returned to their original manufacturer for recycling programs.
There are other advantages to an orderly system in the free clothing area too – with everything in its place, Sharon finds that the shoppers have more respect for the place and help keep it nice and neat. The order also helps in keeping a good inventory as it’s much easier to tell when we’re running low in any one area. Areas where Sharon sees the greatest need for clothing is include large men’s sizes (XXL +) and boys clothing, “anywhere from grade school through early high school, when they’re big enough for men’s clothes.”
Donations of gently used clothing in any size, can be dropped off at The River Food Pantry, 2201 Darwin Road, Monday – Friday, 9am – 6pm.