'Anyone can fall into need at any time': Antioch Traveling Closet to host spring giveaway Sunday
The idea for the Antioch Traveling Closet took root about 10 years ago, when Lisa Fisher learned of a young student bragging at school about staying late at McDonald's three nights in a row.
Fisher learned it was because the power had been turned off at the girl's home.
"It just hit me wrong as my daughter at the time was just a year younger than the student," she said. When buying clothes for her daughter, Fisher added a second set for the student.
On school breaks, she provided snacks and juice boxes so the girl had something to eat. That continued for two years until the student moved.
"I started thinking if I could do it for one child, maybe I could help others," said Fisher, part of the student support staff at Antioch Elementary District 34.
Founded in 2014, the nonprofit Antioch Traveling Closet has evolved into a network of volunteers, donors, business and community supporters and others who have helped continue and expand Fisher's initial vision.
That spirit will be evident Sunday at the annual spring giveaway from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Antioch Senior Center, 817 Holbek Drive.
Area residents in need can select from a variety of clothing, shoes, personal hygiene products and cleaning supplies at no charge. And as has become custom, five or six professional stylists will be cutting hair, also for free.
"People have cried sitting in the chair because it has been so long since they had a 'real' haircut," Fisher said.
Antioch Traveling Closet hosts three clothing giveaways and one holiday toy giveaway each year. From 275 to 500 people from Lake, McHenry and Kenosha counties attend the events.
"For some residents in our community, the Antioch Traveling Closet has grown to become a very critical resource," said Mayor Scott Gartner. "As a volunteer, I see firsthand the significant impact ATC makes on the residents it serves."
But success may be limiting potential, according to Fisher who says storage and event space has become a serious problem.
In the early days, Fisher's "mom friends" brought her school-aged clothing. Shoes and winter boots were added to the wish list. Donations filled Fisher's basement and began to overtake the garage.
With monetary donations, Fisher was able to get a storage unit. Then the porch began to fill with donated items.
About 35 people attended the first giveaway in the gym at Antioch Upper Grade School.
"We decided we wanted to do more giveaways," Fisher said. The senior center basement became available for the event and eventually for storage.
"It was such a blessing," Fisher said. "We now collect clothing, shoes, cleaning supplies, toiletries, blankets, school supplies, winter wear and children's books."
Collection dates are held two or three times a month. The closet is a distribution hub for donations from individuals, schools and businesses.
While thankful for the senior center basement, the organization is looking for a base of operations, where donated items could be dropped off, and permanently stored and distributed year round.
"Floods, fires and other tragedies have no schedule, nor do they discriminate against economic classes," Fisher said. "Anyone can fall into need at any time."
Visit https://antiochtravelingcloset.org/ for details.