The Naval Air Station Lemoore (NASL) Chapel was bustling on Saturday, Oct. 20, with shoppers searching for children’s clothing at its first “Great Exchange” clothing drive.
The call went out basewide for people to drop off unneeded children’s apparel at the chapel between Oct. 8-18, culminating in a one-day only event where NASL families could “shop” for clothes. All items were free.
Base chaplain Lt. Keith Ritter and his wife, Michelle, said they weren’t sure how the event would turn out.
“You have to try and not be afraid to fail,” Chaplain Ritter said. “It’s worth the risk.”
By Saturday, 5,122 articles of clothing, shoes and accessories had been donated and 188 people were able to stock up on apparel.
The Ritters, who have been stationed at NASL since last December, said they’re always looking for ways to be a blessing to their community.
“We saw that there was a great need in the community,” said Chaplain Ritter. “Most of us have kids’ clothes hanging in the closet and there is a need out there.”
Michelle Ritter said that she was amazed by the robust response to the event.
“I was just overwhelmed with the generosity of donations, with volunteers donating their time to sort the clothing and with the amount of people who showed up to shop,” she said.
There was a steady flow of traffic throughout the day, with people browsing through tables piled high with clothing for boys and girls of all ages.
Michelle Ritter said that she thought the timing was good with the weather beginning to cool and families needing clothing for the winter months. Everyone who came was able to find clothing for their families, and by 1 p.m. almost the entire inventory was gone. The remaining items were donated to the NASL Thrift Shop that is operated by the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Lemoore.
“The chapel was simply the catalyst, but it was the response of all of those who took the time to be a blessing to each other. It would not have been a success without the response of those that generously donated their clothing items and volunteer hours. It was sailors helping sailors,’ Chaplain Ritter said.
The Ritters say that they hope to make the Great Exchange an annual event aboard the installation.