By: Isaiah Showell, Follow South Jersey Multimedia Journalist/’What’s Good’ Host
WILDWOOD, N.J. — Michelle Rutkowski, owner and president of Boardwalk’s Best Inc. in Wildwood, collaborated with Hopeloft, a Bridgeton nonprofit service organization and the parent organization of Follow South Jersey, to donate as many articles of clothing as possible to Afghan refugees who are currently being housed at Fort Dix Army Base.
“Boardwalk’s Best has approximately 45,000 to 50,000 pieces of clothing remaining at the end of the season,” Rutkowski said. “We had a great sales season, but we still have a ton of stuff. I was talking with Melissa [Helmbrecht] at Hopeloft, and we came up with this idea and heard the need and thought let’s give it a shot let’s try and do this and get it in the hands of people who need it now!” Helmbrecht is founder and CEO of Hopeloft.
Boardwalk’s Best staff and crew along with Hopeloft’s staff spent several hours loading up U-Haul trucks full of apparel stripping the clothing racks of anything they thought was suitable for the Afghan refugees to wear keeping in mind the weather will soon be transitioning to cooler temperatures.
“We have onesies, toddler sweatshirts, we have t-shirts for kids at least 15,000 articles of clothing for children,” Rutkowski said. “We have warm soft clothes to wear to bed at night and some shoes to put on if you grew out of your shoes at Fort Dix. They may not be the perfect thing, but their perfect for right now, and we have them to give and we’re driving them up there.
Rutkowski, along with her staff and the staff of Hopeloft, delivered the clothes to Fort Dix making sure every hoodie, t-shirt, and onesie that was on the rack rested in the arms of the Afghan Refugees.
Volunteer Rich Nichols, director of United Advocacy Group, said anything we can do will make a difference to the refugees.
“There are thousands of refugees here in the state of New Jersey that have essentially come with just the clothes on their back and we’re trying to do whatever we can to provide for the refugees,” said Nichols. “This group of people are suffering because of circumstances that are outside of their control so whatever small thing we can do to make a difference is what I think we’re called to do.”
Rutkowski and Hopeloft have collaborated in the past giving clothes to the community of Bridgeton during the Family Day of Service, an annual event that families can volunteer to do service projects in their communities. In similar fashion, the Afghan refugees can also be counted as another opportunity for Hopeloft and Boardwalk’s Best Inc. to serve people in need.
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