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Teen collects underwear, socks for charity

KENOSHA, Wis. -- One year and 5,000 pairs of socks and underwear later, the goal of Kelsey Swiatko's clothing drive still catches people off guard. "A lot of people asked if this was real. Underwear? Really?" Swiatko, a Bradford (Wis.) High Schoo...

KENOSHA, Wis. -- One year and 5,000 pairs of socks and underwear later, the goal of Kelsey Swiatko's clothing drive still catches people off guard.

"A lot of people asked if this was real. Underwear? Really?" Swiatko, a Bradford (Wis.) High School senior, said of her second collection of undergarments.

But enough people knew of Swiatko's "Operation Underwear" project to bring in about 3,000 pairs of socks and underwear and about $725 in donations. Those totals represent about 800 more pieces of clothing and triple the money raised in last year's inaugural drive.

"And there's still some donations coming in," Swiatko said after dropping off this year's collection at Women and Children's Horizons. The domestic and sexual violence victim support agency is the sole recipient of this year's drive.

Swiatko said majority of donations came from a Nov. 25 10-hour drive at Wal-Mart with her friends, family and classmates. Her total also includes a $2,000 donation from Jockey, which Swiatko translated to about 781 undergarments.

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Boxes stuffed with undergarments of various colors and sizes filled the living room of the agency before being prepared for distribution. The amount of undergarments is below Swiatko's goal of 5,000 pairs for this year. But she said seeing the support and care of the community was quite rewarding.

"I'm just thankful that people are getting more aware of the problem and they are helping out," Swiatko said.

Swiatko's donations go to those who need them very shortly after they are dropped off, said Paula Clark, development coordinator for Women and Children's Horizons.

"They get distributed almost immediately. Probably the day or day after they come in," Clark said. "We let our advocates know that the donation is in, and then the word is out. Brand new socks and underwear is not something that we get donated that often."

The agency has a number of causes where the donated garments will go, Clark said.

"This donation provides for the women and children that come to our shelter, through our clothing closet or other needs," Clark said. "We also have women in the transitional living program ... that this could be part of helping them get on their feet. And another component is the hospital advocacy program."

That program provides clothing for people as they are being released from the hospital. Clark said in cases of sexual assault, most of the victim's clothes often need to be taken into evidence.

"These donations get them undergarments and clothes and it also helps give them back their dignity," Clark said.

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"That amount of money is absolutely phenomenal, for someone her age to raise that much," Clark said.

Swiatko said it would be up to Women and Children's Horizons to decide how to use the money.

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