Clothes Closet celebrates 10 years of community kindness
By Maria Guzzo
New Kensington — Bishop Larry J. Kulick felt the embrace of the fabric of the local community firsthand when he visited the Community Clothes Closet’s 10th anniversary party Dec. 11.
Making the rounds of the New Kensington facility, housed in the former St. Joseph Church school, the Bishop, who had been Pastor at St. Joseph years ago, remembered the bustle of activity in the former classrooms. While the activity these days targets clothing sales, volunteers who run the ministry more importantly offer customers kindness, compassion and fellowship.
“It’s so wonderful to see everyone in the community working together and offering service to others across all faith traditions,” he said. “It’s important for people to pull together.”
Community Clothes Closet founder Christina Discello, a Mount St. Peter parishioner, 13 years ago began gathering donated clothes for students at the career school where she worked so they had job interview outfits. That idea expanded three years later into offering all types of clothing, toiletries, household items and food, helping customers improve their living standards with dignity.
The CCC initially set up shop in a tiny building in downtown New Kensington donated by the city. When that building was razed to make way for an apartment complex, the ministry moved into more spacious accommodations at the former school a few blocks away at the corner of Kenneth Avenue and Locust Street.
Prices at the CCC are low, from 25-cent children’s clothes to $3 winter coats.
“So it’s not a handout,” Discello said. “But it gives people a chance to have nice things.”
New customers receive 15 items free, and naturally, those in need after a fire or other dire circumstance are helped gratis.
“We share what we have,” Discello said, and that includes generous amounts of coffee and conversation, which help tie the community together.
Volunteers from Mount St. Peter, and now also St. Mary of Czestochowa Parish and St. Joseph Parish, staff the two shifts the CCC is open weekly – Mondays and Saturdays from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Donations can be dropped off during those hours, and volunteers sort and hang the best items. Overflow is donated to the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
During the anniversary fete, CCC customer Denise Burton of Plum tucked into a celebratory lunch of salad, rigatoni, chicken and cake. She said she’s been shopping there with a friend from the neighborhood for a couple of years and appreciates all the CCC has to offer.
“Everybody is so grateful they’re here,” Burton said. “You can’t find better people.”
Bishop Kulick said he was pleased to receive an invitation to the CCC’s anniversary event. “I try to go around to ministries within the Diocese and support them,” he said.