Suitcases Full of Clothes Are Really Seeds of Hope

Paul Rudan - Campbell River Mirror
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May 6, 2012


Sheila Janicki is planting the seed of hope in these Mexican children with suitcases full of donated clothing she and her husband Chris collected.

Chris and Sheila Janicki plant seeds of hope, especially for children.

Their "seeds" come in a suitcase, but they're not really seeds. The used suitcases are full of gently-used donated clothing which is given away to the poor children of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

"We just love kids," says Sheila, taking a breather from running 123 ABC Daycare. "We take these things to people who are less fortunate. For kids to have nice clothes, it makes a big difference."

By providing nice clothes and good shoes to children and teens, families have a little more money for food, education and health care.

So, in a way, the clothing giveaway is like planting seeds of hope that provide the children with opportunity.

"Especially the girls," says Sheila. "Women seem to be the last ones taken care of."

Sheila, 51, and Chris, 55, have been married five years and have a mixed family of six children. All but one of the kids are out of the home, but they also sponsor two children overseas; one in Uganda and the other in the Dominican Republic.

When the couple started vacationing in Mexico, they first started looking for a project they could help with.

"Mixing vacation with a mission," says Sheila.

That's when they came across Children of the Dump, a program to provide education and assistance for the poor. It is now known as the Volcanes Community Education Project and for the last three years the Janickis have been bringing suitcases full of donated clothes.

But this Easter, for the first time, Chris and Sheila were there when 19 suitcases were distributed to more than 125 children.

"It was amazing to see," Sheila recalls. "Some of the homes they live in are in worse shape than our back shed."

The Janickis acquire the clothes through friends and by going to garage sales year-round. Some of their favourite helpers include Anne Brown, Burt and Jane Campbell, Mike and Rona Pollock, and Sherrie.

They also have a big friend in WestJet, which takes on the extra suitcases for free as a humanitarian gesture. Click here  for the WestJet Donation Application page.

Sheila says they take the clothes because it makes them feel good, it helps people who really need the help, and it's one small way to share their own good fortune.

"Just a way of giving back," she says.

And what makes them feel really good is receiving a message back from the families of Volcanes:

"Chris and Sheila, thank (sic) for your very generous gift of clothing and shoes for our families, especially the children. The clothing was very nice and looked brand new to us."

The Janickis hope to speak at a future Rotary meeting to encourage Campbell River Rotarians to help out. For more information, e-mail Sheila and Chris at sheilachrisjanicki@gmail.com.

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