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St. Amadeus Clothes Closet

What began as a Girl Scout community service project to collect coats for people in need has been zipped up into the St. Amadeus Clothes Closet in Alburgh, providing all kinds of clothing for all ages and raising funds for the parish.
 
“There are a lot of low-income people in this town, and there was a need” for the coat project that began about a dozen years ago, explained Denise Pardee, one of the organizers of the project and a parishioner of St. Amadeus Church.
 
The Clothes Closet has become an important part of life for many in this northwest corner of the statewide Diocese of Burlington who come often or infrequently to get clothing for themselves and their families and baby goods like a stroller, dresser or changing table.
 
Many customers don’t drive, so the Main Street location in the parish hall across from the church is convenient.
 
Sometimes volunteers get requests from the elementary school next door for essential winter wear for one of the students. “If we don’t have it, we get it,” said Connie Cosgrove, co-coordinator of the Clothes Closet with Pardee.
 
Word about the parish’s clothing ministry — located in a converted front porch — spreads through the school, the local health center, veterans’ groups, the fire department and the senior center so people know clothing and other goods like bedding are available.
 
Working poor and retirees in need of a helping hand come not only from Alburgh but from neighboring towns.
 
Operated by a volunteer team of four who sort and — when needed, mend and launder — the donated items, the Clothes Closet accepts donations for all items; there are no set prices. “You put in what you want,” Cosgrove said; some people put in $20 for a bag of clothes while others can put in only coins.
 
And that’s OK.
 
“We have an abundance of clothes,” she continued. “God made sure. We don’t care what they put in. We want to help.”
 
In addition to the coats and jackets, there are shirts, pants, sweaters, pajamas and even holiday apparel.
 
The Clothes Closet takes in about $150-$200 a month; it is added to parish funds.
 
Asked why they volunteer with the clothing ministry, Cosgrove and Pardee agree it’s the way they were raised. “I like to sort and organize, and I know there is a need in our community. This is the way I was raised. … I would go without so somebody else could have something,” Cosgrove said.
 
“Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the people say or show their appreciation,” commented Laura Limoge, a parish secretary.
 
Yet she knows a few people might abuse the system. “My faith informs me when I see the cheating of the system. I’d cut them off, but my faith says, ‘You can’t do that, Laura,’” she said. “My faith allows me to overlook some things I might not otherwise,” especially when it comes to food. “Having people go hungry in the richest country in the world is an abomination.”
 
The parish also has a food shelf in the parish center, adjoining the Clothes Closet. It offers fresh foods and baked goods from Hannafords on Wednesday and Friday from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Non-perishable food is available at the rectory on Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
 
The Clothes Closet is generally open Monday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. from April through December and at other times for emergency needs by calling the rectory at 802-796-3481.
 
Originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
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