CLOTHING EXCHANGE: Elk River mother tries to accommodate city - KMSP-TV

CLOTHING EXCHANGE: Elk River mother tries to accommodate city

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ELK RIVER, Minn. (KMSP) -

Seven months ago, Julie Will took on a mission to help others cut the cost of their clothing bill by hosting a free clothing exchange in her basement -- an idea inspired by her daughter with Down Syndrome.

"She definitely has some of the best stuff in here," Danielle King said. "It has changed everything for me. I've been able to safe money for Christmas presents or birthday presents."

The idea is simple: For every article of clothing you bring in, you get one to take home -- and all of it is made possible by a mother's love and a simple Facebook page.

"I think that if I maybe continue doing the right thing and helping others, that will inspire [my daughter] to push herself through life and have a good life," Will explained.

What began as a simple page on a social media site started with just a few invitations, but it quickly caught attention.

"It kind of just really snowballed after that," Will recalled.

Now, more than 800 people have signed on and Will sometimes takes in more than 20 garbage bags full of clothing in a day.

"It has completely taken over the house," Will admitted. "It has taken over my life."

At times, it has even taken over the neighborhood. In fact, a handful of complaints to the city of Elk River prompted officials to send her a letter saying she may need a business permit.

For now, the city is working with Will to decide what option is best. One possibility is letting the status quo stay, and another involves getting a $15 business permit that requires set hours and limits on how many people can be there at once. The final option would involve finding a traditional place of business, but Will told Fox 9 News that would shut her down.

"I don't make a dime doing this," she said. "It's my blood, sweat, and tears -- and I'm not able to afford a space."

Will does admit that until recently, four or five cars would come to her home at a time. Reluctantly, she set limits to allow just a couple of people at a time by appointment only as a compromise.

"I understand their concern," Will said. "I'm trying to be as accommodating as possible."

Will hopes to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, and said she has called the city planning commissioner. Now, she is waiting for city staff to set up a meeting to determine what the next step could be. In the interim, she is hoping someone might be willing to donate space in the city. 

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