STRENGTH & FOCUS: Dani DiLarso drives around NEPA delivering clothing and kindness
Greetings, and thanks for reading this week’s edition of Strength & Focus. As you know, this column is centered on providing resources and tips to empower mind and body to create a better you; we also like to feature individuals who are empowered to create a better community here in NEPA. I recently interviewed Dani DiLarso, an extraordinary and passionate young woman who drives (literally) around NEPA to collect and distribute clothing to those in need.
I had the pleasure of meeting Dani a few months ago at a networking mixer hosted by the NEPA Networkers group. In our first meeting, she made a wonderful impression as she displayed a cheerful smile, love for life, and radiated a genuine interest in helping others. Her work is truly inspiring, and I’m proud to present this week’s interview.
NEPA SCENE: Please tell us a little about yourself.
DANI DILARSO: My name is Danielle, but I have been called Dani (correct way to spell it) by many people since I was born, due to the fad my grandmother started by spelling my name D-a-n-n-y (yes, like a boy). My mother prefers to call me Danielle. I was born in Upland, PA (no, I don’t know where that is) and have moved every three to seven years since I was born (no, I am not an army brat). I am most recently from Brooklyn, New York and have been living in NEPA for a little over one year. I have severe all-year-round allergies, a reptile obsession, a French fry fetish, and I want to work with baby monkeys.
NS: Tell us about your clothing drive.
DD: It started in New York City when I would go through my entire wardrobe and pick out clothes to give to friends – friends who had a low income and therefore could not afford to shop. It just made sense to me to help the people I know first. Then I started throwing bags of clothes in the bin in Union Square, where proceeds would go towards keeping events alive in the Square. Now, in NEPA, I collect clothes (always from people I know or friends of friends so I don’t get kidnapped), shoes, accessories. I load the bags into my car, carry them up three flights of stairs, and go through each bag, making new bags based on the organization’s needs and wants. Bring them back down the steps, load up the car, and drive around, dropping them off at the organizations I donate to in Scranton. If anyone has ever donated a huge garbage bag full of clothes, then you know how heavy they can be on someone who is 105 pounds with a herniated disk to be lugging around. It is a heavy hobby that I have chosen. I donate to places that will give away these items for free to their people in need, not a place that will sell these items to people in need. That makes no sense to me.
NS: What started you on this path to help other?
DD: I have to say that NYC put me on this path, whether I wanted to be on it or not, and taught me to enjoy helping others. You can’t not help someone in NYC; that is just not possible unless, of course, you are evil. I would walk by people in dire need all day, every day, and at first it made me sick to my stomach and I would cry about it. Then I got used to it, just like you would anything else. And instead of crying about it, I tried to help. I suppose I found my purpose on this planet. If I were a trust fund baby, I would be able to do more, but in the meantime, I do this.
NS: How long have you been doing the clothing drive?
DD: The actual Double Di Clothing Drives I have only been doing for about three months.
NS: What is your goal?
DD: To hopefully make people smile by receiving a shirt that does not have a hole in it.
NS: Do you have help from others, or is this something that you do alone?
DD: I do the physical work alone, which will need to change soon because of my bad back, but I would say all of my friends fully support this and help me by donating many bags. It also helps when they spread the word to their family and friends for me.
NS: Do you give the clothes directly to those in need, or are they delivered to a middle person/company?
DD: I will pick up your bag personally or meet somewhere reasonable. Once organization is complete, I bring the bags to the institute and the employees take it from there.
NS: What is the response?
DD: Very high. I have a group on Facebook called Double Di Clothing Drives that’s almost at 100 “likes,” and I have a car full of bags every week. I also had my first fundraiser at the AfA Gallery with Here We Are in Spain, where I received 10 bags from 10 people in the audience. That is a lot for a little car.
NS: You’re involved in other community projects. Can you tell us about them?
DD: While I cannot afford to join a “club” or “group,” I join all the free ones. So when I am able, I randomly show up to donate my time to people or animals in need. I have also paid for baseball games and paint nights where proceeds go towards charity, or else I probably would have declined. I like to see where my money is going, since I have so little of it.
NS: How can people get involved to assist your work?
DD: I would appreciate it if people followed my page on Facebook and helped spread the word to their family and friends. Please remember: “If you have not worn that (garment) this past year, you aren’t going to start.” People are always looking for ways to get involved; this is something super simple that you can do that does not require any money or travel. Clothes, shoes, and accessories are something we ALL have and something we all need to get rid of!
NS: If someone (or a family) is in need of clothing, especially during the colder months, who should they contact?
DD: If you know someone personally that is in need, I have no problem bringing them a bag that suits their needs and wants. Just let me know.
NS: Do you have any other projects coming up?
DD: I am going to have a second fundraiser coming up that you can keep a look out for.
NS: How can people reach you?
DD: Private message me on Facebook on my Double Di Clothing Drives page or e-mail me at email@example.com.
NS: Is there anything else you would like to share with NEPA Scene?
DD: Where can I find a salad and bubble tea in NEPA?
As always, thank you for reading and be excellent!
Also, please support Dani in helping others. We all have clothing and accessories that we no longer wear, so please consider donating them to someone who could benefit. Your kindness and generosity would truly be appreciated.