Discovery in home closet fuels warmth 

  • Matthew Knee looks at one of the donated items as he organizes his U-Haul storage space on Stickney Ave. on Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Matthew Knee hangs up one of the donated items as he organizes his U-Haul storage space on Stickney Ave. on Thursday, October 22, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Matthew Knee brings in a flyer from his donation drive as he organizes his U-Haul storage space.

Monitor staff
Published: 10/26/2020 7:41:47 AM

Inspiration can come from anywhere, at any time.

For Matthew Knee, it happened while cleaning out his closet five years ago, when he discovered pairs of pants that no longer fit.

“A little chubbier then,” conceded Knee.

The pants and other articles of clothing Knee found that day in his Concord home – half a pickup payload’s worth – became, unofficially, his first drive to warm the homeless. He launched his debut clothing drive the following year and is currently in the midst of his fourth edition, which runs through Dec. 31.

From now until then, donations can be made at numerous drop-off points in a program that Knee, the founder of New Hampshire Financial Services, says fosters community camaraderie. He said he considered donating to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, but worried about leaders of those organizations taking huge amounts of the money raised for their own salaries.

“There are other community members who want to go above and beyond, something that is all-volunteer, community leaders giving back,” Knee said.

At that first drive, the one that was unofficial, Knee went to a known encampment area for the homeless and handed out clothing, some of which was brand new. His friends caught on to the idea and gave donations as well.

“Why not make it free?” Knee said. “We have the power to do just that, there at the railroad tracks, and people are willing to do kind things, but they’re not willing to go down there and do it.”

This makes it easier. Since 2017, the stockpile of clothing has increased. The process moves from a biweekly visit to several donation points – like Area 23, Litherman’s Limited Brewery and Dos Amigos – for pickup, followed by laundering and storage, compliments of U-Haul at half price, and deliveries made by volunteers to shelters, kitchens and people, face to face.

The cause raised $3,295 last year, according to the NH Financial Services website, “which positively impacted over an estimated 100 children and even more homeless veterans through our great state.”

Knee said the clothing he recently picked up at Area 23 weighed “exactly 23 pounds.” Local teachers and the Friendly Kitchen are involved, providing winter clothing to students and food for the older crowd, part of a grassroots movement that began in a local closet.

“That was the catalyst that sparked the whole thing,” Knee said.

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