Day 13: Donations

A wedding dress donation

I opened another box of donated clothing. This box of girls’ pants had been presorted by another organization that accepts donations, then passes these many, many boxes on to us.

My job was to double check that the two hundred or so pair of pants were in fact girls’ pants. Sorting now will save time when we restock the free store, a place where refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine could take home as many items of clothing as they want.

Luckily it wasn’t my job to count the articles of clothing; that would take concentration.

A different team would count them after they were sized. I only had to sort them into bins. I should be able to do the entire box in under ten minutes.


When I sort women’s clothes, I’m distracted. It’s sort of like window shopping except that I get to hold the clothes in my hands, feel the material and check out the designers.

Earlier today I got a garbage bag filled with women’s clothing that was my size, my color palate and my exact taste. The clothes were more upscale than I could afford.

Note to Santa Claus as I shake the bag at the sky. This. Please. For me. For Christmas. Got it?

Organizing these children’s pants will go faster. Pants and, hey look: here’s a shirt.

This stowaway shirt was a plain gray shirt that would probably fit a five-year-old girl. Nothing about this shirt stood out, until I saw the tag.

This tag is on a young girl's shirt?

The tag said that the shirt was for “Sexy little princesses.”

This was disgusting. Who would buy this shirt for their young daughter?

I read the tag out loud to other volunteers who were working close by and they were equally appalled.

As we continued sorting, the volunteers from Canada, Japan, Poland, Italy and the United States were united in the distain for societies oversexualizing little girls.

I got back to work on sorting the box. Easy work. Tedious work.

I enjoy getting into a rhythm and working as fast as I can, because the faster I organize these clothes, the faster these clothes will end up in the shop ready to go home with someone who needs them.

A young man who was volunteer from Krakow held up a woman’s shirt and asked me, “This is a dress, yes?”

“No.” I said. “It’s a shirt. A long shirt.”

“But it is like a dress.”

“It’s called a tunic.

Julie sorting donations.

You wear pants under it.”

He shook his head and continued sizing clothes.

Later he held up a woman’s dress. “This one is a shirt.”

“Nope. That’s a dress.”

“But you must wear pants under it, right?”

“No. That’s a short dress.”

He shook his head and added the dress to the “Women’s Dress: Small” pile.

Another volunteer who was a man held up a woman’s night shirt with Mickey Mouse on it and said confidently, “This is a dress.”

“Actually, that’s pajamas.”

His body froze for a moment while he tried to process what I said. “Are you sure?”

I nodded.

I took a photo of five men sorting women’s clothing. One man is holding something up for the other men to help decide what pile it goes on. I will not publish the photo here, because I don’t want to embarrass anyone.

Women of the world: I hope you appreciate the education these men are getting concerning women’s clothing.

The man from Poland held up a short dress. “This one is a dress?”


“It’s the first one I got right all day.”

I laughed and continued sorting the box of pants.

There were pants in the box, but there were also pajama pants, girl's shorts, boy's shorts, woman’s pants and a few purses in there. Slowly I worked through the box and put items into giant tubs.

At the very bottom of this same box were at least fifty pairs of girls’ socks. They were used socks that someone had washed and lovingly rolled into little balls, so the pairs wouldn’t get separated.

People who donated are reminded to never send used socks or underwear, but we get them every day. Sometimes the socks are donated to a different organization.

We only give out socks and underwear that are new, and I understood the importance in the beneficiaries getting these things new.

But these socks were clean. They were lovingly folded. They matched.

People fleeing war have little or nothing. I understand that they deserve new things, but it was hard for me to throw these socks into the “Clothing Trash.”

Micha, site coordinator, folds underwear

I went to find Micha, the site coordinator for the entire operation here in Krakow.

She was busy refolding new pairs of underwear so they would look neat and be easier for the beneficiaries to choose.

When’s the last time your boss was more than a manager who told people what to do? When’s the last time your boss folded underwear?

It’s easy to respect a woman who isn’t afraid to do the very same work that the rest of us are doing.

I told her about the socks that were in perfect shape. Designer socks, for girls. They had cartoon characters and cool designs on them.

A pallet of donated socks.

She listened. Really listened. She didn’t have a retort ready the moment I finished.

She didn’t make a decision. She just listened.

Then she asked me if I ever bought used socks or used underwear.

No. I never have. But if I were in need, I would.

She asked me if I would feel better if I knew there was a whole pallet of brand new socks that had been donated. All sizes. New socks.

She showed me the pallet.

New socks. So many pair of new socks.

I did feel better.

Late afternoon view from my window seat.

Women telling secrets.

A church. Another church!

On the streets of Krakow.

I've heard that tourism is down here... as much as 90%.

Oh, art.

The mall.

There are daily protests here. I always stand and listen for at least a few minutes.

Twilight on the square.

Good night castle.





Thanks for reading.



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