http://paloaltoonline.com/print/story/print/2007/06/20/stanford-clothing-drive-saves-students-castoffs-from-landfill


Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 20, 2007

Stanford Clothing Drive saves students' castoffs from landfill

Started by one woman 10 years ago, the effort now includes dozens of volunteers

by Becky Trout

Every June, in a mad dash to flee the campus, Stanford University students leave behind dirty towels and designer jeans, lamps and socks.

The waste -- all destined for the landfill -- used to bother Lori Fuller, a Mountain View resident who worked as a residential affairs specialist in campus dorms for nearly a decade. So in 1997, she began collecting the castoffs -- in a baby pool called the "jean pool" -- and taking them to local charities, particularly InnVision.

Ten years later, Fuller's one-woman effort has become the Stanford Clothing Drive, a nearly year-round project with several dozen volunteers, a trickle of funding and one influential cheerleader -- Palo Alto Councilwoman LaDoris Cordell, a former judge and advisor to Stanford's president.

"We started small and dug our own grave," joked a sweaty Elaine Hill, a Menlo Park resident who has joined Fuller in coordinating the drive.

Last Monday, the volunteers rolled out about 60 50-gallon barrels, which were donated by Greif Inc., an industrial packaging company. Within a day, many of the barrels were overflowing.

Fuller, her son, and other volunteers hefted the discarded sweaters, mismatched shoes, and unopened graduation gifts into bags, which they piled into vans and drove to Ujamaa residential hall, where they tossed them onto large tables for sorting. Sweatshirts, socks, T-shirts and larger jeans are sent to the Opportunity Center, which provides housing and programs for the homeless and formerly homeless. Hill estimates they provide more than half of the center's entire year's supply of clothing. Other items, including the size 1 designer jeans, are donated to Goodwill, Hill said.

Volunteers, exhausted from a day of lifting packed bags, relaxed in the stifling heat of the lounge last week. They called the work "smelly," due to both the volunteers themselves and some less-than-choice items left behind.

They found 10 pounds of raw meat, lots and lots of liquor, a Coach handbag and even a wedding dress.

The volunteers try not to think of the students as spoiled, but after digging through mounds of perfectly good clothes and furniture, sometimes it's tough, they acknowledged.

Students have been eager participants during school-year events and several graduate students even volunteer with the drive, Fuller said. Fuller said she doesn't expect student participation. During finals week, they have plenty on their minds.

The volunteers see their drive as a grassroots sustainability effort at its simplest.

"This stuff is filling up the landfill if we don't snag it," Fuller said.

She doesn't even shy away from climbing into dumpsters, where treasures often hide. Recently, she spotted a brand-new Eddie Bauer backpack -- just what someone on the streets needs.

On Tuesday, the drive ended for this school year. Volunteers aren't sure exactly how much they collected -- the goods fill several hundred bags and several truck loads, however.

The work begins again in August, when high school students flood the campus temporarily, often furnishing their rooms for only a few weeks, leaving bedding and even microwaves behind, Hill said.

And, although the core volunteers are glad to toil for hours, the work is hard and more volunteers are always needed, Fuller said. All the work is done for free, save for a small stipend Fuller and several workers from the Opportunity Center received this year.

In addition, there's always a need for clean, gently worn "survival gear" to stock the clothes closet at the Opportunity Center, Hill said.

And money -- to rent the vans to transport the goods, perhaps to acquire a much-desired golf cart, or even to promote the effort -- would be great, Fuller said.

For more information about the Stanford Clothing Drive, call Lori Fuller at 650-575-1420.

Staff Writer Becky Trout can be e-mailed at btrout@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Kyle Love, a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 21, 2007 at 12:31 pm

Three cheers for Lori Fuller and her team of volunteers for their tremendous service to our community. Through their vision and hard work, they have provided a way for Stanford University and its students to provide immediate goods and services to the less fortunate. I'm sure Stanford is very proud of Ms. Fuller, her volunteers, and their students for all the good they have done in such a short amount of time.


Posted by member, new, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 21, 2007 at 12:59 pm

Lori Fuller and her team...pretend they think the world is a blank slate they can write on. But they are old enough, judging by the picture, to know better.

Some things doubtless reached the landfill, but in the good old days, lots of people, from as far away as the Central Valley, used to love dumpster diving in June at Stanford, as did Stanford workers who often, we heard, sent things to Mexico. (And with all the agitation about a "living wage" for Stanford workers, it's easy to imagine these people didn't like this stuff getting away from them).

Win-win situations are rare, and this is not one of them.


Posted by staff, a resident of Stanford
on Jun 21, 2007 at 4:24 pm

"The volunteers try not to think of the students as spoiled, but after digging through mounds of perfectly good clothes and furniture, sometimes it's tough.."

You know, I wouldn't be so quick to condemn the ones who are providing these gems. It could be that the students know full well what these items are worth, but are choosing to donate them to brighten the day of someone less fortunate than them. If I were one of those students, I'd hate to think that the recipients of my generosity were getting a laugh at my expense, even as they slip on the hand-knit sweater I left for them.


Posted by grad, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 21, 2007 at 4:53 pm

"Other items, including the size 1 designer jeans, are donated to Goodwill, Hill said."

Careful... You'd be shocked to know where donated clothes may end up. Goodwill-donated items often end up in the hands of wholesalers that sell discarded clothing in bulk to Africa.

Read the story here: Web Link

The phenomenon devastates Africa's clothing industries. Make sure you donate clothing in good condition and never donate items like underwear, which will most likely be exported.


Posted by Donation Drive Volunteer, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 23, 2007 at 1:22 pm


The 650 homeless and "at great risk clients" of Drop In Center of The Opportunity Center of Palo Alto are University neighbors. They are the main recipients of the donation drive….and unlike Stanford workers, and the folks that "love dumpster diving" (sic) most have no wages….living or other. Many have mental and physical health issues. The clients do not "love to dumpster dive" but they have had to do it for basic survival.



Posted by Donation Drive Volunteer, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 23, 2007 at 1:23 pm

The 650 homeless and "at great risk clients" of Drop In Center of The Opportunity Center of Palo Alto are University neighbors. They are the main recipients of the donation drive….and unlike Stanford workers, and the folks that "love dumpster diving" (sic) most have no wages….living or other. Many have mental and physical health issues. The clients do not "love to dumpster dive" but they have had to do it for basic survival.


Posted by member, new, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 26, 2007 at 12:52 pm

Economists probably fight over whether it is better to be low wage or no wage, and philosophers over whether it's better to be a recipient of charity or an enterprising individual who looks for free stuff.