Wednesday, July 21, 1999

Church Group raises goal for clothing drive

Church Group raises goal for clothing drive
Organization hopes to provide clothing for 1,000 low-income children
The Ann Arbor News
By Pamela Appea

Jewelry retailer Arthur Robertson said he has wanted for years to so something for low-income children in the community. Although Robertson said he often talked with his wife, Sandra, about some of his big dreams for a grassroots community service project, he said he wasn’t sure he could make that commitment.

“Like everyone else, I thought I was too busy.” But after Robertson said he had a vision from God, he knew it was time to act. In 1993, as part of the Bethel AME church outreach program, he started the Quality of Life Resource Center, a clothing center for low-income children at 1511 Traver in Ann Arbor.

The organization’s annual back-to-school clothing drive, the group’s largest venture, tries to provide hundreds of Washtenaw County children with basic staples such as a winter coat or a dictionary for the school year.

Not only do new clothes and school supplies fulfill a practical need for low-income families, but they also provide children with self-esteem, said Roberson, the organization’s executive director.

This year, Robertson said the Quality of Life Center’s goal is to clothe 1,000 children, up from the 560 children for whom the organization provided clothes last year. Although this jump may seem like a stretch. Roberston said his operation has expanded since 1994 when it provided clothes for only 10 families.

“(My) dream has been realized,” he said.

Working from a list of names given by Washtenaw County Interdependence Agency along with families involved in the Head Start program and a local domestic violence shelter, Robertson works with the families’ requests.

“We give them a form and build from that,” he said.

Most children need a jacket, pants, socks, underclothes and shoes. For school supplies, they need one notebook, a pen and a pencil, he said.

J.C. Penney gives the Quality Life Center discounts for the clothing drive.
“The families are very appreciative because the funds (for clothing) are not available,” said Scott Elliott, the director of Head Start’s family services division.

According to Elliott, 90 percent of families who participate in the Head Start program fall under the federal definition of living in poverty, and many are homeless.

A new set of clothes, said Robertson, can cost up to $300, a “luxury” that many low-income families cannot afford. Last year, he estimated that he spent $100 for each child who received new clothes.

“Sometimes … problems pile up, if you take away just one (that helps),” said Gerald Monford Jr., a parent whose children were helped through the program.

The center often struggles to get sustained financial support. This year, the Quality of Life Center has raised $35,000 since March. To reach its goal this year, Robertson said he wants to raise $65,000. The center relies on cash donations from businesses, churches and other organizations for funding.

“(Last year) we were so far from our goal (in the late part of summer), it was frightening,” he said. But, the center ended up providing clothes for 560 children--60 more than expected.
Anyone interested in making a donation can call Robertson at (734) 665-1221 or send checks payable to the Bethel Quality of Life Resource Center to P.O. Box 13099, Ann Arbor, MI 48133. Donations are tax deductible.

Originally published Wednesday, July 21, 1999