Thirteen years ago, Christina Discello started an effort in New Kensington to help people in need get clothes for job interviews.
It lasted three years.
“We realized that was not what people needed,” she said.
These were everyday clothes that the townspeople needed. Discello changed direction and 10 years later the Community Clothes Closet is still there, helping people.
“Every year we see an increased need. There has been an increased need every year we do this, especially during the pandemic, ”Discello said. “People have been extremely generous with their donations. People really give back. The people are so nice. They want to help each other and they want to help each other.
Discello, 59, of New Kensington, is chief of staff, which operates as a ministry in Mount St. Peter’s Parish. Now retired, she was a program director at the now defunct Career Training Academy in New Kensington when she started her at school, intending to help students who had no money to buy. maintenance clothes.
Until three years ago, it was located in a city-owned building on 10th Street. This building, with a yellow facade and red trim, was demolished to make way for the Pioneer Apartments of Wesley Family Service.
“We needed a bigger place anyway,” Discello said.
Since then, the Community Clothes Closet has operated from the lower level of the former Mary Queen of Apostles School, along Kenneth Avenue, where it uses six former classrooms.
With clothes, shoes and accessories for men, women and children, the closet is open to anyone, no questions asked. “No one needs to prove where they live, their income, anything,” Discello said.
First-time attendees can get 15 items for free. Prices range from 25 cents to $ 3, but if people can’t pay, they don’t have to.
“Everything is given. They can have what they need, ”she said. “We are not here to make money. We just want to help people.
Discello manages the closet with the help of around 25 volunteers.
Kay Reano of New Kensington has been helping for eight years.
“It’s my favorite volunteer job of all time, and I’ve done a lot,” she said. “It’s very gratifying to see people coming in with such need and coming away with such appreciation, and helping so many people everywhere. I love it.”
Patty Stone has been volunteering for nine months and recently helped sort out the donations.
“I like it,” Stone said. “I like to see what comes in. “
Discello said it lost volunteers during the pandemic and had to reduce its opening from four days a week to two. The closet is now open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Mondays and Saturdays.
“We are now seeing between 80 and 100 people a week,” she said. “It’s amazing in four hours.”
The 10th anniversary will be celebrated during regular hours on December 11th.
The closet depends on donations, and Discello said he’s been lucky to have had enough and never run out.
Discello said they often need men’s clothing.
“Men don’t get rid of their stuff,” she says. “Men tend to keep their clothes on longer than women, shoes included.”
While retail stores are stocking for the coming season, Discello said they need some winter clothing right now. “We are living in the present moment,” she said.
At the end of winter, whatever is left will be donated. “We don’t have enough room to keep the clothes from season to season,” said Discello.
The closet has expanded beyond clothing to include household items and food. Discello would like this to become a unique place where people who are homeless or who lose their homes to fires can get help.
“It’s just kind of a snowball now,” Discello said. “We see what people need – they need everything. “
The closet even offers the intangible: a place to socialize. In the cashier room, there are tables, coffee and a small book lending library.
“We know our customers. We spend time with them, ”said Discello. “We have coffee, chat and help them get through the tough times. “
Making friends and getting to know people has allowed Discello to exist over the years, which she says has passed so quickly.
“I see people’s struggles and I want to help them and make their day brighter,” she said. “It’s addicting. I want to do it more.