Over a thousand BYU graduate students and community members gathered Sept. 10 for free clothes and gear through the Gifts of the Heart Exchange charity event.
Since 2007, BYU’s MBA Spouses Association has run Gifts of the Heart Exchange (GOTHE), a clothing drive for graduate students and families in the area surrounding the university.
Hundreds of volunteers collaborated to pick up clothes from various stores, such as Kid to Kid and Uptown Cheapskate, in Orem and Lehi. The volunteers then sorted, bagged, labeled and dropped off the clothes and gear at a storage unit in Springville.
“I’m in charge of all the volunteers, so all this stuff that we have we collect over the months prior to the event and I coordinate the people picking them up and sorting them and then dropping them off at the storage unit,” co-director of this year’s GOTHE Phoebe Pooley said. The volunteers complete eight store pickups a week and one weekly trip to the storage unit in preparation for the clothing drive.
Volunteers spent the week leading up to the event transporting the clothes from the storage unit in trucks and trailers to a church building in Provo, where they began to sort through the donations.
“I’m in charge of planning out how we set up the building and making sure we have all the signs,” this year’s other GOTHE co-director Alex Hardcastle said.
The volunteers sorted everything from strollers to toys to clothes and shoes of all sizes by Friday evening, and on Saturday, the clothing drive opened to graduate students at 9:00 a.m., undergraduate students at 10:00 a.m. and to the general public at 11:30 a.m.
“It’s an intense and wonderful week,” last year’s program director Ana Morriss said.
The morning of the event, graduate students and community members lined up outside the church building with garbage bags ready to be filled with free clothes and shoes.
“I’m pretty sure it started as, like, people who were in the MBA Spouses Association brought their clothes and they exchanged them, and now it’s huge and we’re able to give to other grad students and college students and everybody, so it’s really cool,” Hardcastle said.
The program began with wives needing clothes and shoes for their kids while their husbands were pursuing MBAs and couldn’t work, and has grown into an event that helps thousands of people in the community each year, according to Morriss. She said she estimates there are around 800 volunteer hours each year.
“I used to come to an event similar to this every year growing up, and when I heard about it here I was like ‘Oh my gosh!’ I loved that. It was so fun as a kid, so I really wanted to get involved,” Pooley said.
According to Morriss, families and individuals who attended the event took about 80% of the clothes and gear. To continue the cycle of giving, GOTHE donated the remaining 20% to additional charities or to clothing recycling centers.
Morriss and Pooley both described how the program has personally affected them by allowing them to get clothes and toys for their children while their husbands have been in school.
“It’s a huge blessing,” said Pooley. With an MBA student’s low income, she said she relies on GOTHE to clothe her family and has hugely benefitted from the program.