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Plainview moms turn homes into closets for needy

Veronica Agrillo, 36, of Farmingdale, "shops" for clothing

Veronica Agrillo, 36, of Farmingdale, "shops" for clothing for her three children from among the thousands of new and gently used items up for grabs at the Manetto Hill Jewish Center in Plainview. (Nov. 12, 2013) (Credit: Tara Conry)

Holding up a pink, long-sleeved girl’s shirt, Veronica Agrillo admired its good-as-new condition and the embroidered owl on the front. It was among a number of clothing items that Agrillo, 36, of Farmingdale, brought home Tuesday night after browsing the large collection of donated apparel inside the Manetto Hill Jewish Center in Plainview.

A stay-at-home-mom to 2-year-old twins, Isabella and Gabriella, and Nicholas, 5, Agrillo said her kids grow out of their clothes fast.

“Before you know it, there’s another growth spurt and their pants have begun to look like high waters even though you just bought them,” she said. “You just can’t keep up. This takes a burden off my chest, financially.”

From Sunday to Wednesday, more than 50 people took advantage of the clothing giveaway, which was coordinated by Plainview’s Closet, a grassroots group made up of Plainview mothers.

Plainview’s Closet co-founder Lisa Fogelson said the effort was inspired by a message posted in early October in a Facebook group called Plainview Moms. A local mom and teacher had asked if anyone had girls clothes, size 8, they could donate to a student living in a shelter. Fogelson said more than 40 moms responded, offering up their children’s hand-me-downs.

“It was just incredible to see what everyone had available as soon as there was a need,” she said.

Fogelson, 33, said the group recognized that the need went beyond this one girl. They began collecting and sorting the clothing they had by size and gender, and storing each collection in 10 different homes.

“Homes would act as closets,” she said. “When a need arises, you can pull a whole wardrobe at once.”

With thousands of items in their closets, though, and winter approaching, the group wanted to distribute as much as possible, so they turned the Jewish center’s banquet hall into a free store for four days. Anybody was invited to come, either by appointment or during two open sessions, and take whatever they needed.

There were no forms to fill out nor questions asked, said Fogelson, who instructed “shoppers” to take what they needed but leave enough for the next person.

One shopper, a 41-year-old Bethpage mother of five, said the free clothing would help her family a great deal. Her husband is currently out of work, and they are trying to get by on one income. She said that when her family is in a position to help someone else, they will.

Co-founder Ali Kusinitz, 43, said a good portion of the leftover inventory will go to the Gerald J. Ryan Outreach Center in Wyandanch, but Plainview’s Closet will retain some of it to be distributed to local families via the Bethpage-Plainview School District.

The group will continue to maintain “closets,” and they hope that other communities will follow their lead.

Kusinitz, a mother of three, said, “We’d love it if ‘closets’ popped up all over Nassau and Suffolk.”
 

Tags: Plainview

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