Drop box helps all involved
Holy Trinity Church in Webster and St. Michael's Church in Lyons recently joined a group of 16 other parishes and Catholic schools that have found a creative way to serve others while raising funds at the same time. Within the past year, both of these parishes decided to locate a St. Pauly Textile drop box on their property.
St. Pauly Textile, which is located in Rochester, was founded eight years ago by Joe Degeorge and Paul Callerame. The company's mission is to collect used clothes that would otherwise clog up landfills and instead give them to the needy in the United States and Third-World countries. The company originally fulfilled that goal by helping local charities, school organizations and other groups hold clothing drives and by picking up used clothing from groups or individuals.
About six years ago, however, they began distributing donation drop boxes to interested church and community groups. Many parishes and schools are opting to use these drop boxes - which people can access 24 hours a day - instead of holding one- or two-day clothing drives. The clothing still goes to those in need in the United States or one of 43 other countries, and parishes can make a small profit.
"I think no matter where we've gone we've made a lot of friends," Degeorge said. "It's a nice feeling. For what we do, everybody wins, everybody gets helped. It's worked well."
The boxes are actually small, shed-like buildings, measuring approximately 8 by 12 feet, with a chute on the front for people to drop their bagged clothing, shoes, belts, purses, linens, blankets and drapes into.
"A lot of different people use it. They know it's not just one time," said Sister of St. Joseph Catherine Gibbons, faith-formation coordinator at St. Michael's in Lyons, St. John the Evangelist in Clyde and St. Patrick in Savannah.
St. Pauly Textile has more than three dozen drop boxes located in Monroe and Livingston counties and the Finger Lakes region, and roughly half of them are at Catholic parishes or schools, Degeorge said. The locations of the boxes are widespread, with boxes at St. John the Evangelist in Spencerport, St. Charles Borromeo in Greece and St. Cecilia in Irondequoit.
St. John the Evangelist and Our Mother of Sorrows in Greece, St. Thomas Aquinas in Leicester and St. Lucy in Retsof, St. Dominic in Shortsville, and St. Theresa in Stanley and St. Mary in Rushville also currently have drop boxes, and one will soon be constructed at St. Paul's Parish in Webster.
Rochester's McQuaid Jesuit High School and Geneva's DeSales High School also have drop boxes, as do St. Mary's School in Waterloo and Hope Hall in Rochester. An ecumenical group in Charlotte sponsors another drop box, which is located at Holy Cross Church.
St. Pauly Textile regularly sends out a truck to empty the drop boxes, and between those times, the parish or organization typically has volunteers check the boxes. The volunteers bag any loose donations, stack the bags on one side of the box for pickup and make sure nothing inappropriate - such as garbage or small household appliances -has been dropped off. For every thousand pounds St. Pauly Textile collects from a particular box, the parish or organization earns $40, Sister Gibbons said.
Sister Gibbons said she was attracted to the idea of the drop boxes because it was a way of raising money without selling something. "It's a service to other people. It's not like selling M&M's or candy bars. It's helping people dispose of things they do not want in a way that helps others and saves the environment," Sister Gibbons said.
Sister Gibbons said that St. John and St. Patrick parishes received their drop box the first week of August 2003, and St. Michael's received its box later that same month. By the end of March 2004, St. John and St. Patrick collected 28,317 pounds of clothes <\#151> approximately 56,000 garments -and have earned $1,133, Degeorge said. In roughly the same time period, St. Michael's collected 34,335 pounds of clothes -approximately 68,000 garments - and raised $1,373, Degeorge added.
The money raised from the St. Pauly drop boxes at St. Michael's, St. John and St. Patrick benefits the youths of the parishes, Sister Gibbons said. The parish has invited families with children enrolled in parish catechetical programs, Catholic schools or youth ministry to volunteer to check the boxes, and those same programs benefit from the profits. The money might be used, for example, to help fund scholarships for teens who otherwise would not be able to attend parish or diocesan retreats, Sister Gibbons said. Parish youth groups make up the majority of the Catholic organizations who've asked for and will benefit from drop boxes, but they're not alone.
The drop box for Church of the Holy Spirit in Penfield was constructed April 21, and that box will raise funds for Habitat for Humanity. Several other parishes will use the proceeds for community outreach programs, Degeorge said.
Holy Trinity in Webster has only had a drop box since the middle of April, said Judith Kiehl, the parish's pastoral associate. The funds raised will support the parish's H.O.P.E. ministry, which provides support to people throughout the Webster area who are experiencing economic difficulty. The Trinity House of H.O.P.E. provides clothing to those in need, and any clothes the ministry is unable to use are given to St. Pauly Textile for distribution. The two ministries are separate, however, and any clothes that are dropped off in the St. Pauly drop box will be given to St. Pauly, not the H.O.P.E. ministry, Kiehl said.
Those who want to be involved in the H.O.P.E. ministry must participate in nine weeks of training, a commitment that not everyone can make, Kiehl said. The parish therefore created Friends of H.O.P.E., a separate ministry for those who want to support H.O.P.E. but can't make the time commitment. Checking the St. Pauly drop box in between pickups is one way members of Friends of H.O.P.E. can help support the ministry, Kiehl said.
"It's a beautiful community project. It gives people in the community a chance to participate. That keeps them in touch with it, too," Kiehl said.