GREEN BAY — Delaney Gallagher knew that she wanted to help guests at St. John’s Homeless Shelter, so it didn’t matter when her plan slightly changed. Gallagher, who had past experience providing meals at St. John’s, initially inquired about supplying socks at the shelter, but discovered that there was a greater need to protect guests from the elements.
Gallagher, a sophomore at Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay, created Long Johns for St. John’s, a program to collect new and gently used long underwear. She placed donation boxes at nine locations — the five Festival Foods stores in the Green Bay area, Notre Dame Academy, Active Chiropractic in Green Bay, Salon Forte in Green Bay and St. Mary Church in Ledgeview, where she is a member.
“My dad (Matt Gallagher) has been a really great help with the fundraiser,” she said. “He’s helped me to reach out to people at the different locations to see if our fundraiser is something they would like to partner with. Our sponsors have been great.
“We check the boxes (at the drop-off locations). We’ve taken quite a few donations from some of the Festival locations. I’ve got quite a bit from Notre Dame Academy,” added Gallagher. “We purchased a lot based on the monetary donations we’ve received.”
Sponsorship levels were created for monetary donations. For example, “Freezing Season,” a $50 donation, helps five guests while “Polar Vortex,” a $250 donation, assists 25 St. John’s residents.
“Due to COVID in our community, St. John’s is operating two 24/7 shelters this season to meet the need and ensure safe social distancing,” said Alexa Priddy, director of community engagement at St. John’s, the Micah Center and Wellspring.
“However, even with safe shelter options, our guests still struggle with the barrier of transportation,” she said. “They are out in the elements getting to appointments, employment and walking between our St. John’s locations. Exposure to the elements is a fact of life for anyone experiencing homelessness in Green Bay. Therefore, having access to warm, thermal long underwear is essential.”
An estimated 550 to 600 adults experiencing homelessness will be served at the overnight emergency shelter during the 2020-2021 season, Nov. 1 to April 30, Priddy told The Compass. Last season, in response to COVID-19, St. John’s provided 20,145 nights of shelter through June 15, the day Brown County’s executive order allowing continued operation expired.
Gallagher has collected more than 300 items so far through Long Johns for St. John’s. In addition to long underwear, other winter gear is being accepted. The donation boxes will remain at the Festival Foods locations through the end of February. Donations will continue throughout the shelter season (April) at the other locations.
“Guests who need long underwear simply submit a request,” said Priddy. “We are quickly able to get these donations in the hands of our guests.”
Long Johns for St. John’s is already being planned for next shelter season. Gallagher received a $1,500 grant from The Canary Fund, which provides grants to those working toward change in Northeast Wisconsin.
“We would obviously like to fulfill the shelter’s needs for the current winter season,” said Gallagher. “We would also like to be able to start working towards next year’s need. The grant from the Pollination Project (in partnership with The Canary Fund) will help us with a big purchase.”
Gallagher is keeping track of numbers this season to plan for future needs. During the shelter’s off-season, she hopes to find a good price for a large purchase of long underwear.
“What we know is that without one’s basic needs met — like warmth and protection from the elements — it is hard to work toward goals and overcome barriers,” said Priddy. “(Gallagher) is giving our guests one of the greatest gifts this winter by starting Long Johns for St. John’s.”
“I’ve learned how important it is to help out others in your community,” said Gallagher. “The responses we’ve received from everyone have been huge amounts of gratitude and ‘what a fantastic idea.’ When you give someone an opportunity to help out in the community, they are so ready to help, which is fantastic to see. It’s been really heartwarming to see all the gratitude shown. Through our donations, we are showing the residents of St. John’s that our community cares about them and wants their winter to be more manageable. I think that’s a really important message to share.”
To donate to Long Johns for St. John’s or for more information, visit stjohnhomelessshelter.org/long-johns-for-st-johns.