Marathon runners provide thousands of clothes to local charities

Memory Kadanga helps women pick out clothing from Pacific Garden Mission. Clothes the Chicago marathon, including sweaters and jogging pants, added to the supply of clothing available to homeless people in the city.
Memory Kadange helps women pick out clothing from Pacific Garden Mission. Clothes from the Chicago marathon, including sweaters and jogging pants, added to the supply of clothing available to homeless individuals in the city.

By Alexandria Johnson

Johnetta Rogers spent Wednesday morning in the aisles of the women’s clothing room at Pacific Garden Mission, a homeless shelter in the South Loop. As a guest at the shelter, she now has a wide range of workout wear and warm-jackets to choose from, thanks to athletic wear donations provided by last weekend’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

“They provide clean clothes, so I don’t have to wear the same clothes over and over,” Rogers said.

Chicago-area charities received a large influx of donations, including jogging pants and sweatshirts, following the marathon on Sunday. Many of the 41,000 runners shed their outer layers when the race starts while others strip down along the route. It’s impossible to get that stuff back to its owners so it is donated to Pacific Garden Mission and AmVets, an organization that serves veterans.

“This helps someone coming off the street who is wearing the same clothes for a couple days,” said Gerald Casey, director of outreach ministries for Pacific Garden Mission. “It gives them a sense of pride.”

Casey estimates Pacific Garden Mission has received clothing from the marathon for at least 40 years, along with unused items such as water, Gatorade and bananas.

“It had to be close to 15,000 items,” Casey said. “As the weather gets nasty, a lot of people are being blessed by these items.

Pacific Garden Mission lets overnight guests select outfits from the donations. Memory Kadange volunteers in the women’s clothing room where guests can pick out one outfit on Mondays and Wednesdays, and two on Fridays. “Even when I worked, I never shopped like that,” said Kadange, who stayed at the mission two years ago. “You can be homeless and still look presentable.”

AmVets sent three trucks to receive donations this year. The organization received marathon castoffs for the first time last year.

“It definitely helps the AmVets, and we are very glad the organization called us to pick up donations,” said Sharon Gnilka, the nonprofit’s general manager. “We are very excited they called again.”

AmVets is primarily funded from the sale of donated clothes, and it uses the money to help veterans receive benefits and compensation through the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Leonard Imada of Los Angeles competed in his 12th marathon Sunday but did not shed any clothes during the race. Still, he is glad that his fellow runners’ gear is helping people. “It’s for a good cause,” he said.

The marathon also donates to other charities such as the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Last year the food bank received 47,000 pounds of unused food and water after the race.