Nursing students hold clothing drive

Outside the University of Miami’s School of Nursing and Health Studies, student Susan Hartl placed three bags full of used clothes on a patio table.

The clothes will be distributed to the neediest people living in Miami-Dade County.

The Nursing Students Association (NSA) is collecting new and used clothing as part of the Jackson Psychiatric & Camillus House Clothes Drive through March 12.

“It’s a very important thing to do, to help out the community and the less fortunate,” said Hartl, a nursing school senior.

The NSA delivered 340 clothing items to the two organizations Jan. 19, in congruence with President Barack Obama’s National Day of Service. A total of 18 NSA members participated then. In the first week of this semester’s clothes drive, seven NSA members made donations.

The NSA is accepting new undergarments and children’s clothing as well as used male and female shirts, pants, jackets, shoes and winter accessories.

Donations can be made every other Thursday beginning Feb. 26 at the southeast corner of the School of Nursing and Health Studies at the Coral Gables campus between 5 and 5:30 p.m.

“This is such a basic necessity, something everyone should be provided and have access to,” said nursing student Ariel Brinberg. “It can dramatically impact and influence the life of someone.”

Accelerated nursing students hold an undergraduate degree in a field other than nursing and can acquire a nursing degree in 12 months.

Administrators at Jackson Memorial Mental Health Center look forward to collaborating with University of Miami students to help dress individuals who are sometimes released with the clothes on their backs or medical gowns.

“They don’t have clothing, a lot of them are homeless or do not have stable living,” said Vicki Sevilla, director of activity therapy at Jackson Memorial Mental Health Center. “We are providing them with this basic necessity so when they do leave, they have something.”

A looming reality is the number of families that currently frequent homeless shelters in South Florida, especially since the Miami-Dade County unemployment rate has reached seven percent, according to the Beacon Council.

Edward Boland, the volunteer and community outreach director for Camillus House, sees the change.

“We have started to see a few new faces of people that are losing their jobs and have no other options.  We are also seeing slightly more people who are homeless and we have to assume it is because of the economic climate,” he said.

Although the number of homeless individuals on the streets of Miami-Dade County has decreased by 16 percent, the number of homeless families in shelters rose to more than 700, according to the 2009 Miami-Dade County Homeless Census.

“The clothes that we get at Camillus House goes to the neediest people in the community, including homeless people on the streets and people living in shelters,” Boland said. “The people living on the street, it gives them a sense of dignity and self respect. In terms of families living in shelters, it gives them one less thing to worry about.”

As an incentive, NSA members receive one point for every three items of clothing donated, serving towards chord recognition during graduation.