Simplified: The Union Gospel Mission bought a baler about a year ago to help turn unusable clothes into roofing materials. Now, it's sent its first truckload of clothes to a Tennessee organization in exchange for $10,000 to support the mission's work.

Why it matters

  • While the baler's been in place for some time, the mission wasn't able to really get started on this project until it acquired a forklift with the help of local donors. Once that happened, it only took about three months to fill a semi truck with bales of clothing.
  • This new project is also giving the people who stay at the mission a chance to gain practical workforce skills by learning how to operate both the forklift and the baler.
  • In its first load, the mission saved 45,000 pounds of clothes from going to the dump, said Elly Heckel, communications and marketing director for the mission.
  • And, the mission in return got $10,000. Right now, the money is going toward paying off the baler, but once that's accomplished, it'll all be profit, CEO Eric Weber said.
"If we can bring in $10,000 every three months, that feeds thousands of people," Weber said.

How did this project get off the ground?

This whole effort came together because of a variety of community organizations, Weber said.

  • That includes a Sioux Falls Simplified story from January, which the mission shared with donors to help gain support in the project.  

That story also put this project on the radar of Millennium Recycling,* which now donates any clothes found in recycling bins. The mission then in turn sends all of the boxes donated clothes come in back to the recycling plant.

  • The two organizations are also partnering to bring awareness to waste reduction.

The forklift purchase was made possible because of the mission's Lamplighter auxiliary group, which does fundraising for the mission.

  • Then when the forklift was purchased, the folks from Herculift helped get it to the mission's loading dock.

All of this went into getting the clothes baled, and once baled, they were sent to a Tennessee organization where the clothes will be repurposed into rags and roofing materials.

*Now an advertising partner with Sioux Falls Simplified.

What happens next?

The mission plans to continue working with both residents and inmates to develop its job training program related to the baler and forklift equipment.

  • To that end, the nonprofit is looking for people with those skillsets to volunteer to help train others.
"We really want to see this project make a difference in somebody’s life," Weber said.