With focus on dignity volunteers at Father Gene's Help Center help fulfill wishes
WEST ALLIS, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Connie Claus shares a last name with Santa, and in a way, she is fulfilling wishes.
As a volunteer at Father Gene's Help Center in West Allis, she picks out clothes for people who need them. She puts a lot of effort into picking pieces people will be proud to wear.
Pushing a shopping cart through racks of clothes, Connie Claus is on the hunt.
"I look forward to coming in, because every day is a new adventure," Claus said.
And yes -- she's making a list and checking it twice.
"You got it," she said with a laugh. "I'm living up to my name!"
Claus has been volunteering at Father Gene's for five years.
"I try to put myself in their position," she explained of her mindset.
Four days a week, for six hours a day, it's her job to put together requests that come in to the free clothing closet. She's developed a discerning eye. Walking up to a wall of purses, she demonstrates her technique.
"So then I go through the purses, and I might find one she really likes," she said of the client she's shopping for.
"She's piecing together outfits," said executive director Jessica Luebbering. "Oh, I want this top to go with these pants and I put a piece of jewelry in a little Ziplock baggie."
Luebbering said Claus is an inspiring volunteer.
"She has this huge heart for giving and is so compassionate and so gracious," she said of Claus.
For 50 years, the nonprofit has been providing clothes and working with more than 30 different agencies in the Milwaukee area.
"These are folks who perhaps do our drug and alcohol recovery programs, mental health stability programs," Luebbering said. "People who are supporting folks who are leaving homelessness or recently migrated to the United States."
Luebbering says their mission is to provide dignity through clothing -- the idea is that if you look good, you feel good.
"When I got up today, I decided that this is what I needed to wear to be the best version of myself today," Luebbering said of her own outfit.
Clients can also come to their storefront and shop for themselves.
"When they're able to look at our racks and select items that the colors and patterns and fits and styles that stand out to them, they are better able to feel that dignity," Luebbering said.
They're able to pick shirts, pants and even accessories.
Claus is focused on dignity, too.
"You can't judge. You cannot judge," she said. "Because you don't know what their situation is at the time."
Every list she picks up is a chance to make someone happy.
"Having that last name that I have, you'd think that you could fulfill everybody's dream, but you can't," she said.
Father Gene's is always accepting donations, and right now, with the cold weather, they're in need of warm coats and boots.
Still, they don't always have what people ask for.
Claus tries to come pretty close.
"Everything falls into place as time goes on. You get to learn the client. If they keep coming back, you know that client. Otherwise they wouldn't come back," Claus said.
Once the bag is packed and ready, she calls to let them know the clothes are ready for pickup.
Another order complete.
"Just that thoughtful care and attention. When clients come in to pick up their orders that have been packed by Miss Connie, it's like you have to lift with your knees because they're so heavy. They're so abundant," Luebbering said.
That's what keeps her coming back day after day.
"As long as the good Lord is saying, hey, you're here, do what you can, I will still be doing it," Claus said.
For more information on Father Gene's you can visit www.fathergeneshelp.org.