Hundreds of schoolchildren in the African country of Ghana have thousands of reasons to be thankful, after a clothing sale aimed at providing them with desks and school uniforms raised more than $23,000 in only eight hours over the weekend.
Clothes for Hope, the not-for-profit charity organized by Newburyport High School senior Lauren Sundstrom, sold more than 3,500 articles of clothing during Saturday's Shop For A Cause sale inside the Clean Tech Center off Mulliken Way.
Sundstrom said 90 percent of the proceeds will go directly to the Keta School District in Ghana and the New Seed International Orphanage.
"I'm really, really excited," Sundstrom said, adding she was completely shocked by the success of her sale.
According to Sundstrom, an adviser told her he thought the sale would raise about $16,000, more than the $10,000 she had initially hoped for. But the first sign that the sale would be a gargantuan hit came when she saw between 30 and 40 people waiting outside before the 8 a.m. start to get in. And when the doors opened, clothing went fast and furiously.
"It really helped that a lot of people in the area came, and they were very happy to support the cause, so it was a real feel-good day," Sundstrom said.
A big reason for the sale's success was the tireless effort of the dozens of volunteers who helped parked cars, operate cash registers and oversee changing rooms, Sundstrom said.
"The amount of people that contributed was overwhelming, and I can't even begin to name all of them. It was such a community effort," Sundstrom said.
Sundstrom has seen firsthand what life is like in the impoverished Third World country, having visited Ghana in 2011 to volunteer with underprivileged and orphaned children. There, she worked in the Keta School District and at the New Seed International Orphanage, teaching a wide variety of subjects to kindergartners, second-graders and fifth- and sixth-graders.
Upon returning home, Sundstrom founded Clothes For Hope, hoping to raise much-needed funds. After coming up with the idea of a large clothing sale, it took her several months to collect the nearly 7,000 items of clothing.
Sundstrom said about 60 percent of the clothing was sold Saturday. The remaining 40 percent will be donated to various local charities, she said. Prom and evening gowns will be donated to the Cinderella Project, which helps make sure everyone can afford a prom dress. Communion dresses will be donated to Newburyport's Immaculate Conception Church, while women's shelters and Best Foot Forward, the Amesbury-based charity that helps people find jobs, will also receiving clothing.
Sundstrom said she was so enthused by the outpouring of support that she hopes to schedule similar sales yearly.