Third in a series of stories reprinted from the Fall 2019 Inclusion magazine.
WATERLOO — Patricia King walked through shoulder-high stacks of donated clothes and household items, all of which she distributes at no cost to those in need, tucked away in the lower level of a business complex on Falls Avenue.
“I feel my value is as much or greater than some CEOs who get paid some outrageous amount of money,” King said.
“It’s a good feeling to feel that you helped somebody. It helps the whole community to be more positive.”
Throughout the years, King’s nonprofit, Eye of the Needle, has provided clothes, furniture and personal items for thousands of people in the community, including those affected by the flood in 2008.
More than 15 years ago, what began as King distributing personal belongings to people in need morphed into something greater.
After noticing clothes from garage sales being thrown away and realizing “people need that stuff,” King began collecting items to be reused.
It was around this time in 2004 that an accident left her unable to walk. The slow rehabilitation process put her out of work with extra time on her hands, and as a means to keep busy, King began collecting and giving items more avidly.
“Just sitting there, not doing anything was not good,” King said. “I was trying to do something to help my mind convince me that ‘Look you’re not done, you’re not dead yet.’ So I said, ‘I’ve got to do something.’”
That momentum has grown her nonprofit over the years. Its current Falls Avenue storefront across from Rudy’s Tacos near Ansborough Avenue provides more space than previous locations in the First National Bank Building, a Mulberry Street address and even King’s own garage.
King has organized and packed multiple rooms at her current location with clothes of all sizes and personal hygiene and household items. Racks of business-professional clothing are stored to be used for job interviews.
“Having the extra space helps being able to separate things,” King said. “We’ve got more space for people to move around.”
To keep things running smoothly, King schedule’s appointments to ensure she has the needed items on hand when people arrive.
“If you do appointments you don’t get so stressed out,” King said. “It helps you keep up with your resources.”
Most items are donated, but occasionally King purchases items with the organization’s funds. During appointments, King requests people create lists of needs. As trends emerge, King will purchase items she doesn’t have if multiple people are in need.
This is typically the case when it comes to school uniforms. King corresponds with the Waterloo Community School District to keep updated on dress codes in order to stock the proper attire. Some uniforms are donated, but in order to provide a wide array of sizes, she often buys the uniforms.
In addition to the donations, King receives monetary contributions from both individuals and churches.
“What we need, to do what we need to do, and what we get — that’s something entirely different,” King said. “I do the best with whatever we get.”
The nonprofit takes its name from a New Testament passage in the book of Matthew in which Jesus says it is easier for a camel to pass “through the eye of a needle” than for a rich person to enter heaven.
King’s outstretched hand is not simply for the sake of giving away provisions; she wants to ensure those in need receive help.
“If you don’t need a bed, I’m not going to just give you a bed just to say I gave it to you,” King said. “But whatever you need, I’m going to try to give you the things you need.”
By being a beacon of goodwill in her community, King hopes the nonprofit fosters similar behavior and a positive environment, creating the mentality that, “’If I have an alternative between doing something good and something bad, I can do something good because this person did something good.’”
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.