Paula Weisberger (left) and Robin Zinchuk work on totes. Bethel Citizen photo by Samuel Wheeler

REGION — An overflow of used pants has led to more than $13,000 being raised for local programs like the Food Pantry, Smile Fund,  and SAD 44 Backpack program.

The repant project, started by Albany resident Sue Lowe in the fall of 2019, focused on taking pairs of used pants donated to the exchange and sewing them into tote bags. The exchange began to receive too many pairs of pants, eventually getting so many it did not know what to do with all of them.

Many of the extra pants were being sent to Goodwill, but after doing some research, Lowe realized that only a small percentage of the pants being sent there actually end up going home with someone. She said people think once clothes come off the racks in 30 days they are being recycled, but most end up landfills instead. This made her want to take a different route.

She took a pile of pants home with her and began searching online for ideas on what do with the pants. A friend that was up visiting Lowe one day was helping her do some research and discovered that somewhere people were sewing pants into totes. She began to sewing them into bags and before she knew it a few more women began to sew bags, also.

Currently, there are a “core” group of  a dozen or so women that are involved in the process, but the group is always encouraging more people to join and Lowe emphasized that they do not have to be good at sewing.

“We’re teaching some people to sew,” Robin Zinchuk said. Zinchuk is one of the people who has been a major part of the repant effort.

Bethel resident Donna Gillis, an experienced seamstress, is another who’s person who’s been heavily involved, especially when it’s come to teaching people how to sew.

Lowe said the group started out by sewing bags only from pants donated to the exchange or ones that they got from their husbands, she admitted, but since then Goodwill and Salvation Army have sent pants their way, also.

When making the bags, each of them tries to use as much material as possible. They learned that pants pockets serve the same purpose on their totes, making for a nice place for someone to store their cellphone.

They also take logos from t-shirts and sew them on bags. They’ve used Moxie, Red Sox and Sunday River logos, amongst others, with the latter being especially popular. The totes were available this winter at the Gem Theater, Barking Dawg Market, Riverview Resort, Cafe DiCocoa’s and True North Adventure. According to Lowe, the totes at the Barking Dawg sold out quickly given its location near Sunday River.

“A lot of people wanted a souvenir that was Maine-related,” Lowe said.

With word spreading about the repant effort, more businesses and people in the area have reached out. The owner of the Matterhorn recently sent down nine t-shirts for the group to use for their bags and someone else donated a ton of Molly Ockett Day shirts giving the group plenty of room to be creative.

“The pants sort of dictate what we’re going to do with them,” Lowe said. “If they have a stain on them, that’s usually where the logo or pocket will end up.”

When it comes to buying the bags, it’s an honor system. People can take the bags from the business and then later send the money to the district exchange. They are encouraging a minimum donation of $25 per bag, but said if people cannot afford to give $25, a lesser amount would work.

The exchange has received plenty of $25 donations, but many people have been more generous. The exchange has received several $50 donations, a few $100 ones and one that was $500. Each bag has an envelope for people to send a check, another way people can donate is by Venmo.

“It’s really just an amazing community effort,” Lowe said.

 

 

Linda Mcdonough hard at work. Her, along with a few other women, meet every Tuesday morning to make totes.

Melinda Remington holds one of the finished products and holds another that is close to completion. Bethel Citizen photo by Samuel Wheeler.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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