Proud to be from Pittsburgh: Mother’s clothing donation program helping hundreds of families

PITTSBURGH — A South Hills mother saw a need for clothing in her community. She started helping just a few families, and it’s turned into assisting hundreds.

“I don’t think that a lot of people in our local area realize that somebody five minutes away from them could be struggling so hard,” said Mattie Porter.

Inside Porter’s Whitehall home, she spends hours separating donated clothes into large bins. She started the “Community Clothes Exchange” three years ago. She first noticed the need when she was volunteering in her children’s school.

“There’s at least 50% that take free or reduced lunch,” said Porter. “And that really tells you the haves and have-nots types we have.”

Welcome to the Community Clothes Exchange! We work to build our community by connecting through clothes. We host...

Posted by Community Clothes Exchange on Saturday, March 7, 2020

To reach more people, Porter started a Facebook page, taking in unwanted shoes and clothing. She then gave them to children and adults for free.

“People in our community are so generous, and we’re not passing on stained or torn clothes,” said Porter. “These are really nice stuff. I get a lot, like kids Under Armour or kids Adidas, stuff because they grow so fast. So, we’re passing on true quality clothes. We get a remarkable amount of donations, and it gives us the ability to give people options and choices.”

Fellow parent and Whitehall community member Stella Eperthener appreciates Porters grassroots mission.

“Kids clothes are expensive, and even if you’re in fine times, they grow so quickly,” said Eperthener.

When her husband needed a liver transplant two years ago, money was tight, and her son needed new pants.

“Other things took priority,” said Eperthener. “So clothes was not top of my list of things to think about.”

Porter’s small passion project soon turned into helping several different community groups, like the Boys and Girls Club in our region and more than 500 families. She just started having shopping events again this year, but for months through the pandemic, people would Facebook message her, and she would get them what they needed while protecting their privacy.

“There’s a lot of people who lost housing, lost jobs, and kids grow regardless of whether you have money or not. You always hear the saying, ‘It takes a village.’ And that’s what we’re building. We’re building that village to bring people together and support each other.”

Her love of community is making us proud to be from Pittsburgh.

Porter adds any clothing that she can’t use she recycles to the planet aid boxes and tries to keep it out of the landfill.

A shopping event will be held this spring, and anyone who needs clothing can reach out to Porter through her Facebook page.