Helen’s Closet overflows with kindness

Sandy Hill, left, and her mother, Helen Derwa, in a packed Helen’s Closet. PHOTO/CHRISTIAN MILLER

OU News Bureau

Nestled within the confines of St. Mark Church in Warren there is a room labeled “Helen’s Closet.” Inside are two women making a world of difference.

Continuing charity that began with her grandmother Helen Herzig,  Sandy Hill and her mother, Helen Derwa, distribute clothes to people who have fallen on rough times. 

“In the early 1970s, my grandmother started giving out hats and gloves to kids that would walk down the street,” Hill said. “Then it turned into her opening up shop in a multipurpose room in the gym of the old St. Mark’s school.”

Hill’s grandmother utilized what little space she had to the fullest extent, supplying families with clothing, food and other necessities. When the school closed down, Herzig relocated across the lot to St. Mark Church where her designated room has been in operation ever since.

The unassuming closet is full of items for those in need. PHOTO/CHRISTIAN MILLER

Now, Sandy and her mother rummage through intricately organized mounds of donated clothes every Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon. People in need visit the duo and are provided with life-saving items with no questions asked.

“I try to give them at least two pairs of pants and four shirts so they have enough outfits to make it through the week,” Hill said. “I never know what I’m going to have week-to-week, but I always tell them to come back because we’re more than happy to help.”

With winter approaching, the family is seeing an increase in traffic, but the assistance they offer spans metro Detroit.  

“Just last week we gave service to 12 families,” Derwa said. “We don’t have any boundaries. We do Wayne, Macomb and Oakland. Wherever the need is, we help.”

Helen’s Closet has even worked with the American Red Cross, supplying clothes to patients in hospitals.

Warren resident John Reibel has relied on Helen’s Closet and knows the impact the program has on the community.

“I came here when I got off SSI and was homeless,” Reibel said. “My friend Jody brought me up here the first time and she’s 36 and has eight kids.” 

Hill and Derwa keep their program running despite the constant need for apparel. 

“We have sizes 2T all the way to 5xl, but all the clothes come through donation,” Hill said. “Sometimes my friends or other members active in the church will go buy out clearance racks so we have enough items.”

It seems that the positivity that arises from helping people can be infectious.

“You’d be surprised how many people come here looking for khakis or items for work uniforms,” Hill said. “I helped one guy out with that and he ended up coming back two years later with clothes he had bought to donate to us.”

Hill believes that if people weren’t so quick to judge others, poverty wouldn’t be as rampant as it is.

“In the end of the day we’re all people,” Hill said. “That’s someone’s loved one, so don’t be afraid to send them a smile and say hi.”

Derwa still can’t fathom the lasting impact her mother’s selflessness has generated.

“It’s like throwing a stone in a lake,” Derwa said. “The ripple effect is just endless.”




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Posted by on Dec 1 2017. Filed under Featured article, Macomb C.. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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