- Associated Press - Thursday, January 7, 2016

PORT HURON, Mich. (AP) - Jack McPhail was riding his bike this week when he decided to stop outside of Blue Water Center for Independent Living in Port Huron.

An assortment of colorful hats, gloves and scarves blowing in the blustery wind caught his eye.

McPhail, 59, of Port Huron, halted his bike to say thank you for the layers of warmth BWCIL is offering for free.

This is the second year that BWCIL has set out a clothesline adorned with winter essentials, free for anyone who passes by, according to the Times Herald ( https://bwne.ws/1RoOauj ).

“Really it was the mother in me who saw little kids coming through with no hats or gloves on,” said Valorie Hudgens, BWCIL independent living specialist. “So many people walk through this area on their way to Walgreens or wherever and I noticed people weren’t dressed appropriately for cold weather.”

Hudgens decided to put the clothesline up outside of the BWCIL building for the first time last year.

The clothesline has new scarves and hats with the price tags still attached as well as hand-knitted baby mittens.

BWCIL provides services and case management for people with disabilities from birth through death. Services can range from teaching independent living skills to peer support for anyone from youth to veterans.

The organization talks to about 7,500 people each year and provides in-depth services to about 600 people a year.

Hudgens said she fills the clothesline each day throughout the winter, Monday through Friday. She started about two weeks ago and will continue until the cold weather subsides.

“We don’t monitor who takes the items but they are always gone, so we keep hanging more up every day,” she said. “We hang about eight to 10 items up each day.”

While BWCIL has taken the initiative to provide the gloves, hats and scarves, many others have stepped up to donate as well.

“We get anonymous donations, too,” Hudgens said. “We come in and the clothesline is filled. People just come and hang up their own donations and others drop off items to us.”

Hudgens said while she has focused on providing hats, gloves and scarves, she would be open to any cold-weather donations including coats and blankets.

“We always have room for more donations,” she said.

McPhail said while he took gloves for himself last year, he also likes to pick things up for others who might need them as well.

“This is my third time stopping here but first time this year,” McPhail said. “At the soup kitchen on the wall there is a place for people to bring in their used clothes and people can take and pick what they need. So I like to stop and grab some things for people on my way to the soup kitchen.”

McPhail grabbed a scarf and dropped it into his bicycle basket.

“I’ve been seeing kids come in (to Mid-City Nutrition) recently since it’s Christmas season and school was out,” he said. “So thank you again for the service you provide.”

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Information from: Times Herald, https://www.thetimesherald.com


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