On January 23, 2020, a group of dedicated employees of the Berlin based laboratory instrument manufacturer KNAUER spent their annual “Social Day“ at the Berlin City Mission of the Protestant Church. The meeting point was the center at the Berlin main train station. With them, the group did not only have a check worth 1,700 euros for financial support of the social work of the institution, but also a large pile of underwear, which the 145 employees had previously collected and donated. Among other things, the Berlin City Mission is responsible for supporting people living on the streets of the capital and organizes the life-saving assistance in freezing cold (German: Kältehilfe) in the winter season.
Why should underwear be donated? The proportion of underwear in clothing donations is extremely low. Possibly due to taboos, however, the need of homeless people is particularly high. When homeless people visit a social institution with shower facilities, such as the hygiene center of the railway station mission at the Zoological Garden station, it is of course reasonable to change their underwear as well. Facilities that offer such services are dependent on support in this respect, because, alone the hygiene center mentioned above, is used by many thousands of needy people every year.
Ute Rastert thanked the KNAUER employees: “As a City Mission, we emphazise the importance of meeting the needy at eye level and with respect. We consider it a success when our offers to help are made use of or when we can perhaps provide a thought-provoking impulse. We are happy about any support for our work“.
Clothing donations were also the focus of attention at the second location the KNAUER group visited that day. During their stay at the “Textile Harbor“ at Storkower Strasse 139D in Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg, they learned a lot about the sustainable work and homeless assistance of the Berlin City Mission at first hand. In the “Textile Harbor“, the clothing donations for the needy are sorted and processed. Here it is determined which textiles can be sold as second-hand goods for money, which can be used directly for the assistance and which can be recycled or upcycled.
Which donations are most suitable for homeless people? Concerning clothes, dark colours are important as well as robust fabrics such as jeans, no wool … everything you would need for a bicycle trip to the Baltic Sea … including sleeping bags, bags and backpacks.
The group has been practically involved in the recycling of textiles that can no longer be used directly. For example, old T-shirts cut into stripes are used to make practical bags or pot holders that can then be used again and sold by the city mission.
“I took part at this social day because I am interested in the topic. Homeless people often stay below radar level in everyday life. I learned a few new things there – including how to support those who work directly with homeless people on a daily basis“, commented Corinna Johannisson, who works in Marketing at KNAUER.
Conclusion of the group: It became clear that the Berlin City Mission is doing important work for the homeless and how a sustainable path is being pursued with the textile donations. Very worth supporting.