Lake Zurich resident leads ‘Clean Jeans’ drive
Lake Zurich resident Susan Miller started her first "Clean Jeans" drive five years ago with fellow volunteers from her church, St. Vincent de Paul. This year the drive has collected nearly 1,200 jeans. | Photos courtesy Susan Miller
Updated: October 15, 2012 11:18PM
LAKE ZURICH — Five years ago, Lake Zurich resident Susan Miller came up with an idea when her church, St. Vincent de Paul, lost its used clothes closet due to renovations in the building.
Miller and a group of volunteers started several annual clothing drives, the most recent of which was the Clean Jeans Drive at St. Francis de Sales last month.
“The weather is cooling off and people are going through their closets,” Miller said of the fall jeans drive.
In the first year, Miller reported, the group was able to collect about 400 pairs of jeans. The drive has continued to grow every year since its inception, and this year, the number came in close to 1,200.
“We had so many donations this year,” Miller said. “Ever since we started it, the quality of what we get is really good.”
Miller said she named the drive Clean Jeans to emphasize the local need for clean, quality jeans. She said her team chose to start a drive just for jeans because it is something everyone wears. Jeans also are easier to deal with in large quantities, she added.
“I brainstormed with the team and we came up with what we though was the best,” said Miller. “It had to be something that had a lasting impact.”
The jeans are distributed out of the food pantry at the St. Francis de Sales Church. Miller said it’s mostly families that come to the drive, averaging about four to five pairs of jeans per family.
“We primarily focus on Ela Township,” said Miller. “But they kind of come from all over.”
Miller said that in the past, certain sizes tended to be harder to come by than others. With all the donations this year, they were able to purchase extra pairs of odd sized jeans at discounted prices to better accommodate families at the drive.
“Women tend to change styles more than men, so that may be why we get more women’s sizes,” she said.
Any financial donations collected at the Jean Drive benefit St. Vincent de Paul Church and its sister church, Our Lady of Tepeyac in Chicago. Excess jeans, which Miller said the drive has seen in recent years, go to the Lake Zurich charity Joanie’s Closet.
“It’s become popular because we’ve been doing this for five years now,” said Miller. “People know to save their jeans because they know this is an annual event.”
Miller, who was born in Michigan but has lived in Lake Zurich for 17 years, said she also is involved in other clothing drives with the church, including a backpack drive and a coat drive.
“It’s a community effort,” she said. “And it feels good to know you’re doing something that helps a lot of people.”