Prisoner Release Clothing Project

In January 2019 Ann Owen, at the request of Mercy Connections, initiated an effort to provide clothing for women being released from the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility (CRCF) to Northern Lights, a residential transitional home on Cherry Street. Working with the Northern Lights house manager, Ann identified two needs: one for outer clothing, and a second for personal items. To address these needs,

• Ann researched local thrift stores that might provide free outer clothing. St. Anthony’s Thrift Store on Pine and Flynn enthusiastically agreed to be a partner in meeting this need. Every Monday Thrift Store at the Methodist Church on Buell Street and, recently, Twice is Nice in Hinesburg, also signed on to this effort.

• The house manager and Ann felt personal items such as underwear, socks, pajamas, and leggings should be purchased new. Ann discussed CCP financially supporting the purchase of these personal items with Mission Chair Virginia Munkelwitz, who took the request to Session. Session granted the request to ask the congregation for donations at their March meeting, and thus began CCP’s involvement in providing personal clothing items for new arrivals at Northern Lights.

CCP received $1,020 in donations in 2019, which allowed us to respond to 10 requests for assistance from Northern Lights between May and December. Initially the house manager handled the purchase and distribution of these items, but with her untimely death in September, Ann took over the purchasing as well as contact with the thrift stores.

Ann created a Clothing Needs Form in September that Northern Lights started giving to their incoming residents prior to arrival. This told us what clothing was needed, and as the colder months set in, our thrift store program expanded to providing coats, pants, and other warm items for release day for Northern Lights residents. Prior to this, they were directed to the local supporting thrift stores after they arrived.

Northern Lights brought the Clothing Needs Form to the attention of the Assistant Superintendent at CRCF. She asked Ann about help for other women in need of clothing on their day of release who were not being released to Northern Lights. As a result, Ann received requests from CRCF for four women this fall, two of which she was able to help with clothing from St. Anthony’s Thrift Store.

Staffs at both Northern Lights and CRCF have spoken about how meaningful it is for someone coming out of prison to receive clothing because they feel someone cares about them during their fragile transition back into society. CCP’s Session, in recognizing the importance of this effort, has budgeted $1,200 to continue this effort in 2020, for which all of us in this program are most grateful.

Two goals for 2020 are to include more thrift stores in the program and to involve more members of CCP in helping to meet this important, unmet need.