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Lynnfield man coordinates clothing drive for hard-hit Chelsea

LYNNFIELD — For Tim Sharkey, the silver lining in the pandemic has been time — more time to do something he has always wanted to do, which is giving back to those in need.

Sharkey has been working with the Chelsea Collaborative to spearhead a clothing drive which has donated hundreds of bags of high-quality used clothing from Lynnfield to the people of Chelsea.

Before the onset of the pandemic, however, Sharkey was racking up long hours as director of market management at Festo USA. With his office based on Long Island, N.Y., Sharkey’s travel schedule was through the roof, not just in terms of his commute to Lynnfield but regular business trips to places such as Mexico City, Germany, Chicago and San Francisco nearly every week.

“It was stressful, getting to airports, worrying about finding the right seats, the baggage, those are the things you get swept up in,” Sharkey said. “It was fun sometimes but getting there was stressful. I missed birthdays and my kids’ games and family events, but that was the lifestyle.”

The pandemic changed all that.

“After 25 years of a very hectic and stressful schedule, boom, it all just stopped. Suddenly I need a reason to get out as what I was used to simply was gone,” Sharkey said. “It was almost like a total reset of everything. I still work, but suddenly without the travel or the office, I had time and knew I needed to do more for those who needed it.”

Sharkey was inspired to get involved this December after hearing about a woman waiting in line at the Collaborative wearing worn-out open-toed slippers in the freezing cold.

“It kind of got to me,” said Sharkey. “Later in the day I opened up a Facebook group called Lynnfield Free For All and I saw a woman giving away eight pairs of boots. And I thought to myself, these boots should be going to somebody in need.”

He posted on the site asking for people to consider donating instead. The response he received was impressive.

“I was really overwhelmed by the number of people in town who wanted to donate clothing,” said Sharkey. “I was getting 20 or 30 bags of donations. I remember thinking, this is getting out of control.”

At one point, Sharkey was making four trips a week to Chelsea to drop off clothes.

Eventually, he began the group Lynnfield Cares on Facebook, where he calls for donations and shares pictures of deliveries.

With the influx of new donations, the Chelsea Collaborative has been able to open what Sharkey calls a makeshift “thrift store,” where those in need can fill a plastic bag with clothing.

Every other Wednesday, they open up the shop and allow people coming to the food pantry to fill a bag with clothing at no charge.

“The clothing drive is supposed to start at 9,” Sharkey said. “There’s a line out the door at 7:30.”

People find high-quality jackets, shoes, shirts and pants in the store. One woman even found a wedding dress among the donated clothing.

Throughout the pandemic, the Chelsea Collaborative has provided food and supplies to those in need, with the help of the Lynnfield community.

The connection between Lynnfield and the Chelsea Collaborative was established in 2020 when Denise Weaver, a Lynnfield woman who works in Chelsea, began donating hundreds of pounds of food, clothing and supplies to the group.

Sharkey hopes that every Lynnfield resident will consider donating to the collaborative.

“Our town is really isolated from poverty,” said Sharkey. “We’re pretty isolated from homelessness and poverty. But if we just go 10 miles down to Chelsea you see people without clothes, food or supplies.  And we can help them out.

“I grew up in Reading and never saw the struggles that others go through. I mean, here everyone thinks everything is wonderful and the biggest issue is, is the football team going to win, but there is a need out there. I guess you could say that the one good thing for me with this pandemic is I’ve been able to help more and I really feel good about being able to do that.” 

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