Warm and dry

Mission | January 10, 2019

Her favorite places to shop are the Salvation Army thrift store on Brady Street in Davenport, and Goodwill in Bettendorf.

Sue Grove is masterful at finding a good deal, especially on coats for the kids at Madison Elementary School. “We find great coats from names like Lands’ End and Gymboree,” Sue said. “I check the zippers, the underarms, take them home and wash them.”

Sue has taken on the role of leading a team of ten people who search thrift stores on both sides of the river for coats and other clothing items. They help wash and mend the coats that need it. The St. Paul Neighborhood School Partnership budget and individual generosity support the effort.

Sue sorts and stores the items. Then she waits for a call or email from Lynn Smith. Lynn is the nurse at Madison Elementary, the school St. Paul partners with. The school is at Locust and Brady, teaching kids who come from families who don’t have a lot of resources.

She’s been at the school for six or seven years, she said. In addition to caring for kids coming in for their medication and kids who are sick, she also sees kids when they have bathroom accidents, don’t have proper clothing to wear, or come to school without a coat. Lynn gives out socks, pants, underwear, gloves, hats, and shoes. She’s given out dozens of coats this year, including to families who also needed coats for younger or older siblings of their students at Madison.

Donations come from a variety of organizations individuals, but Sue is a constant presence. And, if Sue finds something she knows will be needed at some point, but not right now, she stores the items until Lynn, who has limited storage at school, needs them.

Boys, size 6/7 coat. Girls, size 10 coat. Unisex stretch pants, size large. Package of socks. Boys underwear, size medium. Gloves.

“You wouldn’t believe how many socks we give out. We had a rush last week of kindergartners without any socks! That’s where my thrifty Sue comes in,” Lynn said. “When I ask, she gives.” “She just appears with these bags full of goodness. The coats she brings in are top-quality, cute, and fashionable. What I need, she finds. And she does it with a happy heart, too.”

Families, Lynn said, must often make some hard choices about how to spend money. And, with families who move often, sometimes things get left behind. Or, if a family is forced to flee because of violence, they can’t
take everything with them.

Dana Welser, the St. Paul staff member who leads the St. Paul Neighborhood School Partnership, said efforts like this help kids know that school is a place that is safe and will take care of their needs. “This is about dignity,” Dana said.

Dana shared something Sue once told her: “Washing and folding these coats is a sort of prayer for me.”

Sue and her husband, Rex, are constants at Madison. Rex tends to the garden and landscaping areas there.

Why does Sue do this? “Because I can,” she said. “It’s a need I see.”

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