DE PERE — Delaney Gallagher not only appreciates all donations to Long Johns for St. John’s, the seasonal collection eff ort she founded in 2020, but also the message provided by the outreach.
“We are sending the message to the guests of St. John’s Homeless Shelter (in Green Bay) that our community cares about them and we want to make their winter more manageable,” she said. “I think that is so important, …that message for the shelter guests to know that people care about them offers dignity and hope.”
Gallagher started Long Johns for St. John’s after hearing that St. John’s needed socks. She thought that she could help by organizing a collection. Shelter staff informed her that thermal underwear — also known as “long johns” — was a greater need, thus the name of the campaign.
In 2020-2021, 950 winter gear items were collected during the shelter season, Nov. 1 through April 30. Last season, the total grew to more than 1,650 items. In fall, St. John’s Ministries opened a 55- bed women’s shelter at 700 E. Walnut St. in Green Bay, in addition to the continued operation of the men’s shelter at 411 St. John St.
“Right now, I bring all the donations to the St. John’s (men’s) shelter,” said Gallagher, a senior at Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay. “This year, with the new women’s shelter, they have an even greater need for donations. It feels even more important with the second shelter that I’m able to help.”
Gallagher held the first-ever Long Johns for St. John’s donation collection day on Dec. 3 at The Vault in De Pere. Items donated at the event totaled 265. Gloves, boots and coats are always in need, she said. Monetary donations are also accepted. Gallagher credits the generosity of supporters for the success of the annual collection.
“It’s so empowering to see, when you give people the opportunity to help their community, how readily people are willing to give,” she said.
Gallagher has grown as a leader through Long Johns for St. John’s. She recalls the challenges of the first year.
“I started off with a lot of anxiety. It was very stressful starting this during COVID-19,” she said. “It was difficult to reach out to businesses. I was able to get over that through the confidence I gained. I overcame my nervousness because what I was doing was not for myself; it was for the people in my community.”
Gallagher, a member of St. Mary Parish, Ledgeview (De Pere), is also co-president of the ASTRA Service Club at Notre Dame Academy along with Mia Lemkuil. ASTRA was founded at the high school by the service organization Altrusa Club of Green Bay. ASTRA stands for “Ability, Service, Training, Responsibility, Achievement.”
Gallagher said that she embraces the role of advocate for people on the margins.
“You need to call to mind those who are so often forgotten,” she said. “They are as important as anyone in our community. I’m trying to bring people’s awareness to those who are homeless in our area.”
Gallagher’s efforts were recognized Nov. 5 at the Restoring Hope Gala, an annual fundraising event held by St. John’s Ministries. She was honored as the first recipient of the Rising Leader Award. Gallagher said she hopes the recognition inspires other young people to get involved.
“My generation, the people my age, are the people who are going to be making the change in the future,” she said. “I just want to make sure that I establish a good foundation for my generation and my peers, that they can develop a mindset to help people when they start choosing future professions and where they are going in life.”
Gallagher’s goal this shelter season is to top the donations from last year. She will attend college in the fall, likely out of state, so hopefully, Long Johns for St. John’s will have a new leader in 2022-2023.
“I really hope to be able to pass the torch to someone,” said Gallagher. “I think it’s important that this fundraiser comes from a teenager. I think the work that has been created should continue.”
Gallagher has not yet decided on her area of study in college, but knows she wants a career that involves helping people.
“(Long Johns for St. John’s) helped me find my true passion,” she said. “To know that I’m making a difference with my time, that’s what’s important to me.”