By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
When Como resident Jenny Losey learned about Mobile Menders in August 2017, she quickly signed on as a volunteer.
“I thought it sounded like a really unique way to do something I enjoyed while helping out the community,” recalled Losey.
Today, she serves as the group’s Community Outreach Coordinator and also helps organize the Dress for Success event in the Midway area.
Photo right: The mission of Mobile Menders includes education. Como resident Jenny Losey staffs a table during an event. On average, an American throws away 70 pounds of clothing and textiles per year. From January through August 2018, Mobile Menders’ 245 volunteers have repaired about 1,350 pounds of clothing. (Photo submitted)
“We live in a society that quickly makes assumptions about a person based on their appearance—including how they dress. Being able to help people have clothing that fits, zips, and looks decent helps provide a measure of dignity to someone no matter what their situation is,” remarked Losey. “On a broader level, helping to teach people about sustainability and mending helps reduce waste in our community which in turn creates a better environment for us all.”
On average, an American throws away 70 pounds of clothing and textiles per year. From January through August 2018, Mobile Menders’ 245 volunteers have repaired about 1,350 pounds of clothing.
“We are helping keep clothes and textiles out of the landfills by mending items and educating people how important it is to mend your clothing and textiles,” stated Mobile Menders Founder Michelle Ooley, who is passionate about helping people understand how their choices can affect the environment.
“Recycling is such a powerful word, and people can feel overwhelmed,” observed Ooley. “Getting your clothes mended is a simple way to start.”
Ooley is a self-taught seamstress who learned by reading various sewing blogs and watching videos. It involved a lot of trial and error and a good seam ripper, she remarked.
She was inspired to form Mobile Menders after volunteering at an Earth Day work event through her employer at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in April 2017.
Photo right: “Clothes are so important to people, and they hold such a powerful emotional connection,” commented Mobile Menders founder Michelle Ooley. “We all have a favorite shirt, sweatshirt or pants. A story often goes along with an article of clothing. I’ve met some truly wonderful people that volunteer with Mobile Menders. It’s not only providing a much-needed resource to the community, but also to the volunteers and myself. It really is something to witness when you can mend someone’s shirt when they didn’t think you could.” (Photo submitted)
At a Fix-It Clinic event held at Union Gospel Mission, Ooley hemmed pants, replaced buttons, and fixed rips.
With one hour left, a man named Jim came up to her with two items needing repair: a bathrobe with a rip in the seam and a jacket that needed a new zipper. She told Jim that she could repair his bathrobe, but the jacket would need additional time. She asked for his cell phone number and told him she would replace the zipper and return the jacket in about two weeks.
“He couldn’t believe that I would do that for him,” recalled Ooley.
Two weeks later, Ooley met up with Jim to return the jacket. “Jim was moved to tears when I gave him his repaired jacket. He said it was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for him,” said Ooley. She was moved to tears, as well.
She knew she had to do something more. Mobile Menders was born.
Emotional connection to clothes
“Clothes are so important to people, and they hold such a powerful emotional connection,” commented Ooley.
“We all have a favorite shirt, sweatshirt or pants. A story often goes along with an article of clothing. I’ve met some truly wonderful people that volunteer with Mobile Menders. It’s not only providing a much-needed resource to the community, but also to the volunteers and myself. It really is something to witness when you can mend someone’s shirt when they didn’t think you could.”
She is always touched by the joy on a child’s face after their stuffed animal is repaired at a mending event. “Every item that someone brings to an event is important to them, so it’s important to us,” said Ooley.
Losey remembers fixing a sweatshirt that had once belonged to the owner’s sister who passed away. Her cat had ripped it up, and it needed some patching. Another time, she worked on letting out a suit coat for a man at a recovery center who didn’t think he’d ever own another suit in his lifetime.
While Losey loves to sew, it wasn’t always that way. Her mom tried teaching her to sew when she was in middle school, but she couldn’t complete a project without a lot of help, so she gave up on it.
“About two years ago, I decided to try and tackle making Halloween costumes for my kids, and got the sewing bug,” she said. “I found a large online community of sewists and lots of YouTube tutorials to help me out when I got stuck, and quickly progressed into sewing a lot of my own clothes.”
Mending in the neighborhood
Mobile Menders was part of a Ramsey County Fix-It Clinic at Black Stack Brewing (755 N. Prior Ave.) on Sept. 22, and returned to the neighborhood for several events in October.
Mobile Menders had a table at the Hamline Elementary School’s Fall Festival on Oct. 6 for the second year in a row and demonstrated how to take an old t-shirt and turn it into a reusable bag.
Photo right: Mobile Menders was part of a Ramsey County Fix-It Clinic at Black Stack Brewing (755 N. Prior Ave.) on Sept. 22, and returned to the neighborhood for several events in October. The next one will be at Galtier Community School to offer a Make Your Own Superhero Cape during the Fall Festival on Thursday evening, Oct. 25. (Photo submitted)
Also in October, Mobile Menders began a partnership with Hamline Elementary School to provide free mending services to the students and their families in their Family Resource Room. “It’s a project that we have been working on for several months and are excited to get it started,” remarked Ooley.
Mobile Menders will also return to Galtier Community School to offer a Make Your Own Superhero Cape during the Fall Festival on Thursday evening, Oct. 25. Last year, over 150 fleece capes and masks were handed out to students. Each student then had the opportunity to go to a station and decorate a cape.
Like an old-fashioned quilting circle
“Mending events remind me of old-fashioned quilting circles where we all sit around talking and sewing,” remarked Losey. “I’ve met so many amazing people—both volunteers and the clients bringing in clothing to be mended. Lots of them stick around to chat or learn what we’re doing to their clothing, and I’ve heard all sorts of interesting stories.”
Some Mobile Menders volunteers sew, and others act as greeters at events.
“We all have different skills and it’s so cool to sit at a table and have a variety of people all work together to solve a mending problem,” observed Ooley. “It’s very collaborative in nature.”
For more information go to www.mobilemendersewing.com.