Harrison County Wants Goodwill Clothing Help

Hurricane Katrina created a "used clothing" controversy in Harrison County.

Donations from around the country have been pouring into South Mississippi since the storm. Many of the clothes have been sent to the coast coliseum, to be given away to storm victims.

It's a story about good intentions and an overwhelming, some say unmanageable, relief effort.

The clothes under the coliseum tent are a tiny sample of the donated clothing that's come into Harrison County. Supervisors decided Monday the county needs help sorting and saving the donations.

Storm victims and volunteers sort and shop for clothes "under the tent" at the coast coliseum. The clothes are just a fraction of the donations. Semi trailers, filled with donated clothing, are parked in the coliseum's back parking lot.

"I don't want to see them go to waste. The idea was the people who sent clothing to South Mississippi, to do what they asked for, somebody who needed it," said civil defense director, Joe Spraggins.

With surplus clothing also scattered in parking lots across the coast, supervisors called on Goodwill Industries for help.

Leroy Modenbach is executive director of Goodwill Industries.

"That's our specialty. For 100 years that's one thing we know how to do, is sort and grade tons of clothes," he explained.

That phrase "tons of clothes" is no exaggeration. Supervisors say the outpouring of donations has been overwhelming.

"I had situations where they were bringing, you know, I started asking what's on the truck before you bring it here. Because if it's clothing, we can't use that. We have too much clothes already people are not using," said supervisor William Martin.

The outpouring of donated clothing for hurricane victims has been huge. There are piles of clothes scattered in parking lots across South Mississippi. Trouble is, once the donations are rained on, they change from useable clothes to an unmanageable mess.

Spraggins told supervisors he didn't want a repeat of past problems that occurred with donated clothes in New York and Florida.

"They didn't take the time to pick up the clothes and put them in anything and try to salvage them. They left them lay on the ground and people picked them up as they could use them. And once they started soiling, they dumped them in dumpsters and burned them," he said.

Modenbach says Goodwill recognizes the ongoing need for clothing in Harrison County. He says storm victims will be given the donated clothes for as long as that need continues.