Charity collects new apparel for impoverished Clothing drive benefits government agencies and area nonprofit groups

October 07, 1998|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

Used clothing is a staple gift of local donors helping the needy, but one all-volunteer Baltimore group insists donations be new.

"Almost new doesn't count with us," said Susan Hartman, of Central Maryland CAN TOO! Inc. "If new, it's a gift of dignity and confidence as much as a piece of clothing."

The 4-year-old charity eschews bureaucracy. It has a post office box, but no office or phone, a bare-bones budget, volunteers with jobs and about 500 donors who last year gave 6,294 garments, linens, toys and other new household articles.

The organization -- whose name is an acronym for "Clothing Area Needy . . . Thinking of Others!" -- is nearing the end of its fifth annual drive, hoping again to exceed the previous year's donations, said Delight Scouten, who was the group's first president in 1994.

Scouten said donors may leave new clothing marked CAN TOO from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday until Oct. 16 at Ascension Evangelical Lutheran Church, 7601 York Road. Dues-paying members will then sort more than 6,000 items at Roland Park Presbyterian Church, where 25 government agencies and nonprofits accepted by CAN TOO pick up gifts for their clients.

Last year, some donors gave cash and some bought items in stores, but others sewed, knitted and crocheted hundreds of articles. Several members were once active in the Needlework Guild of America and decided in 1994 to form their own unattached local group to help others.

"We create things such as lap robes, baby caps, wheelchair and walker caddies -- pockets to hold things -- and exercise mat covers," said Hartman, who acts as liaison with the recipient groups. "We make or buy things to order. Agencies fill out their wish lists and we try to accommodate them."

Recipients have received dozens of articles for emotionally or physically disabled patients, disadvantaged pupils, entry-level workers, recovering drug and alcohol addicts, abused women and children and others.

The Greater Baltimore Medical Center requested "memory gowns" for stillborn children so parents could retain them as keepsakes.

South Baltimore Homeless Shelter Inc. needed work clothes for recovering addicts. The Joseph Richey Hospice asked for pillows to replace those discarded when patients die. The Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital Inc. wanted easy-on, easy-off clothes such as sweat suits for children in rehabilitation programs.

"They are excellent, caring people," said Betty Jean Maus, speaking of the CAN TOO people who give clothing to the 400 emotionally disturbed patients at Springfield Hospital Center.

"They give us large-size underwear, hats, coats, sweaters and pants," said the director of volunteer services at Springfield. "We give them to our clients as gifts during December"

Members work for CAN TOO in their spare time. Hartman is co-publisher with her husband of an international folk music magazine, Dirty Linen. Scouten is a piano teacher and musician. Grace Crowder, in the first year of a two-year term as the group's president, is a computer engineer. Barbara Schmitt, who helps Hartman with distribution, is a music teacher.

The nonprofit's budget is frugal. Dues of $15 for sustaining members and $25 for supporting members pay for overhead such as postage, printing and insurance (total overhead was less than $500 last year). Cash gifts are used for new clothing; purchases last year totaled $2,473.

CAN TOO will sponsor another event in April at Grace United Methodist Church, 5407 N. Charles St.

Information: write to Central Maryland CAN TOO! Inc., P.O. Box 66262, Baltimore 21239-6262.

Pub Date: 10/07/98

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