Pittsford refugee program cleans out its attic for annual sale - Catholic Courier

Pittsford refugee program cleans out its attic for annual sale

Although the attic of Saint’s Place in Pittsford is literally packed to the rafters with donated items, this former house owned by St. Louis Church won’t be full for long.

On Saturday, April 12, volunteers will form a human chain down the attic stairs, passing along items to be transferred to the gym at St. Louis School for the organization’s annual sale.

"It will take 15 men six to eight hours to empty this attic," said Michele Quinn, assistant director of Saint’s Place, which provides household goods, clothing and education to Rochester’s legal refugees.

Donations that are deemed less useful for refugees, such as bird cages and fish tanks, are set aside in the attic throughout the year to be distributed at the annual sale. That sale — which also features antiques, books, collectibles, furniture, games, holiday items, household items, jewelry, toys, trinkets and more — will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday, April 17 and 18, and from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 19, at St. Louis Church, 64 S. Main St., Pittsford.

Donations are being accepted for the sale through Friday, April 11. After-hours donations may be left on the back porch of 46 S. Main St., Pittsford. During business hours, staff members at Saint’s Place are able to provide tax receipts for donations.

Last year, Saint’s Place made about $33,000 at the sale, which began in 2001. This and other fundraisers help the organization pay for its programming throughout the year and allows the ministry to furnish refugees’ apartments with furniture, household items and clothing upon their arrival in Rochester. The proceeds also will allow volunteers to purchase such in-demand items as socks, underwear, beds and gas for the ministry’s moving van.

"We are an official ministry of (St. Louis Church), but we have to raise a lot of money every year to keep this and our child care running," said Colleen Knauf, Saint’s Place founder and executive director.

So far this year, Saint’s Place has served more than 100 refugees through its partnership with Catholic Family Center’s local refugee-resettlement program. It is expecting about 350 more refugees — a typical, but busy year for the organization, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary at the end of May.

Quinn pointed out how every bit of space is filled in the converted Pittsford home that the organization uses as its headquarters. While the basement is packed with baby items, the first floor’s rooms and hallways are lined with shelves of such household items as lamps, pots and pans, and small appliances. Sets of dishes also are boxed up for families of various sizes, while a bin of backpacks filled with school supplies is ready for school-aged children to begin using. Small tool sets and mirrors also are popular, she said.

Upstairs there is a clothing closet with clothes ready to fit entire families. There are separate rooms for children’s, teenager’s, men’s and women’s clothing. There’s a separate room for linens as well.

"When donations come in, we sort through things that are appropriate and things that aren’t," Quinn noted.

All clothes are sorted into bins and boxes by gender and size. Clothes that aren’t as useful for refugees are set aside for the annual sale or given to St. Pauly Textile. For example, Quinn said, wool items are less useful for refugees since they do not have money for dry cleaning.

Refugees are allowed to "shop" free of charge at Saint’s Place. When some refugees arrive at the airport they receive bags of such necessities as towels, toiletries and toothpaste. Some refugees have left everything behind — including shoes, Knauf noted.

"They come in their bare feet," she Knauf.

Recently, Saint’s Place and Catholic Family Center have welcomed refugees of all races and religions from places including Burma, Bhutan, Iraq, various African countries and Cuba.

"We have been inundated with refugees from war-torn countries," Knauf observed.

The ministry’s inventory can be depleted quickly, volunteers noted. For example, when a family of nine arrives, they will need 18 sets of sheets, nine blankets, nine pillows and nine comforters.

"Three weeks ago, 25 people came in," Quinn said.

Many refugees ask why strangers are being so kind to them, Knauf said. The reply to that question is simple, she noted: Volunteers are supposed to be kind and hospitable.

"We serve all people, all races, all religions," Knauf said. "To us, they are all brothers and sisters in Christ."

EDITOR’S NOTE: For details on Saint’s Place or the sale, call 585-385-6860.

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