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GIVING BACK: Church offers clothing drive
November 9, 2018

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LAKE PLACID - Amanda Hoops organized a table of men's fleece jackets while Rose VanWormer stocked a circular rack of women's coats. There were nine tables and three racks of winter clothes set up at the Adirondack Community Church - everything from Northface jackets to rubber snow boots to 1980s-style windbreakers - but the team worked quickly, putting hundreds of articles of clothing in the correct places.

Soon more than 100 families who need the extra help would visit and stock up for the winter.

"Our goal is to make sure everybody stays warm for the winter months," said Zach Clark, a volunteer with the church. "It's a long winter here, so anybody who's in need - young, old, doesn't matter - just as long as they've got something warm to wear."

Clark said charity work has been a regular part of his life ever since he was a child, and his parents would have the family volunteer for various acts of kindness.

"We were always very lucky to have the stuff we had as kids growing up," he said. "Part of being a member of this church is looking out for each other and people in need. If someone needed a jacket, we found a jacket. That's just what we do. We do thing right thing and help others."

Another person helping with the clothing drive, Tara Wright, couldn't immediately answer why she volunteers and participates in charity events. It'd be like asking her "why do use your legs to walk?" or "why do you breathe air?"

"I got involved with it originally because the church asked me to take it on as one of their missions for the community," Wright said. "So far, I've seen a pretty good effort from both the community and the church in making donations."

The church also provides coffee and food during the clothing drive.

"We try to make it feel more like a shopping experience," Wright said, "so people don't feel like they're getting a handout."

Because of its events calendar, Olympic legacy and big hotels, Lake Placid is often perceived as a financially well-off village by the outside eye; however, that is not the case, according to Clark.

"Growing up here in this area, you know how things work, and the need is in very high demand, unfortunately," Clark said. "You know, people think of us as a very affluent community, but there are a lot of people who are less fortunate."

The church also hosts a community lunch every Wednesday at 10 a.m. The lunch is open to everyone, but it tends to provide food to the less fortunate and older resident who might not have the means of cooking for themselves.

The Lake Placid Central School District participates in the Backpack Program, which provides school supplies and easy-to-prepare foods for children from financially troubled families.

Other groups offer assiatance to local residents who need a little extra help during the holidays and winter months, such as the Lake Placid Lodge No. 834 Free and Accepted Masons (clothing and shoes drop boxes), Lake Placid Ecumenical Food Pantry at the St. Agnes Church and the North Elba Christmas Fund.

And it's not just Lake Placid. According to John Bernardi, CEO of United Way of the Adirondack Region, 44 percent of homes in Essex County live below poverty levels. United Way is a nationally recognized nonprofit that raises funds for needed health and human service programs.

After the 2017 clothing drive, the Adirondack Community Church had provided clothes to more than 175 families in the area.

"That's families, not people," Clark said. "So it could be a family of three or 10. That's just a lot of people we've helped out in the community."

While the church gathers as much clothes as possible, Clark said boots are a hard article to provide because size is key. Anybody can wear a jacket that's too big for them and still feel comfortable, but shoes don't work like that. Wright added that if someone can't find boots that fit, the church members will help them find a pair afterward.

"It's a good feeling," Clark said. "It makes you feel like you're doing something right, and we're happy to help."

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