Rochester ministry has been clothing the needy for 30 years - Catholic Courier

Rochester ministry has been clothing the needy for 30 years

For 30 years, Matthew’s Closet has been following the Gospel call to clothe the needy in Rochester, even during such trying times as the coronavirus pandemic.

The ministry, which is part of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish, is located at 316 Bay St. and is fully operational and open to the public, according to Regina Civiletti, director.

“Our mission is to serve our community with dignity, including those without the ability to pay,” Civiletti told the Catholic Courier Nov. 13.

Matthew’s Closet was founded in 1991 as a ministry of Rochester’s Corpus Christi Church, which merged with several other city parishes in 2007 to form Our Lady of the Americas. In 2011, Our Lady of the Americas became part of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish, and the ministry relocated to its current location the same year.

Civiletti said the Bay Street area is the perfect place in which to operate a low-cost thrift shop to serve people in the community. In addition, Matthew’s Closet serves 40 families a week through referrals from such organizations as Monroe Plan and Rochester Regional Health. The ministry also receives referrals from probation officers for people recently released from incarceration, Civiletti noted.

She explained that individuals or families who have referrals are allowed to visit Matthew’s Closet and receive an allotted number of clothing items. Additionally, every individual who comes in also receives new socks and underwear as well as towels, linens and comforters as needed. These additional items given to individuals are purchased with the money that the thrift shop makes.

“People with growing children can’t keep up with prices (of clothing), and our prices, we haven’t changed them in 20 years,” Civiletti remarked.

Another thing that has remained unchanged over the years is the ministry’s reliance on the assistance of volunteers. The organization is entirely run by volunteers except for Civiletti, who joined Matthew’s Closet in 2018 after the retirement of former director Paul Robinson. She said she was in need of a job at the time when her pastor, Father Robert Werth, who was copastor of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish, called her to see if she would be interested in taking over Matthew’s Closet.

“You know, our Lord has the most delicious sense of humor, because I hate shopping, and I hate garage sales, and look where I work,” she remarked.

But it’s a lovely ministry, added Civiletti, who said she enjoys both the work and the environment and has even had the opportunity to watch the children who visit grow up over the past four years.

With the ongoing pandemic, however, the ministry has had to reduce the number of referrals it accepts from 60 to 40 families. It also has become more difficult for people with transportation issues to access the ministry, since in May the Rochester Transportation System eliminated the route that passes by Matthew’s Closet.

“I feel like we have Aladdin’s treasure down here and I can’t get it to anybody,” Civiletti said, adding that people’s transportation issues have left the ministry empty during certain referral time slots because they are not able to come in.

Despite transportation barriers and the pandemic, Matthew’s Closet has been able to distribute more than 20,000 items to more than 1,000 families or single people so far in 2021. The ministry is open four days a week, with two days of those days reserved for people with referrals.

Currently, the ministry is not accepting any clothing donations due to an overwhelming inventory but is still in need of men’s winter jackets and is accepting such housewares donations as pots, pans, dishes and cookware.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on Matthew’s Closet or to make a donation, visit www.matthewscloset.org.

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