CCHS senior Kate deBlonk organized the space as her Eagle Scout project. Photo by Betsy Levinson

TriCon Church hosts Community Closet to meet local needs — by appointment only

By Betsy

The seed of an idea germinated in the boardroom of the Concord-Carlisle Community Chest last March.

The former Best Western hotel had opened as state-run emergency housing for families who moved in with few possessions.

“Witnessing the increasing needs of the families arriving there told us that something more needed to be done,” said Jennifer Ubaldino, the Chest’s executive director.

Ubaldino approached Judy Walpole, administrator of the Trinitarian Congregational Church on Walden Street, and a grand partnership between the church and the Chest culminated last week with the opening of Community Closet, a resource for families in need.

Community Closet offers clothing, shoes, and personal care products for all ages, with shopping by appointment only. Inside the space, there is a curtained-off fitting room and clothing and shoe racks in organized rows.

Visitors receive vouchers to shop for free. Referrals come from the Concord or Carlisle Councils on Aging, schools, town community services coordinators, and the Elm Street shelter.

Left to right: Select Board member Cameron McKennitt, TriCon Rev. Rebecca Floyd Marshall, Community Chest Executive Director Jennifer Ubaldino, Board member Carrie Finizio, and Rep. Simon Cataldo gather for the opening of the thrift shop at the TriCon Church.
Photo by Betsy Levinson

Shelter Manager Rita Sears, who works for the social services group Making Opportunity Count, beamed as the shop opened. She said there are low-income families here who are under-served beyond those at the shelter.

“It bridges the gap,” said Sears. “The community may not have known that there is need everywhere.”

“I am grateful to all those who said ‘yes, we can do this,’” said Ubaldino at the ribbon-cutting.

Among those who stepped up was Concord-Carlisle High School senior Kate deBlonk, an Eagle Scout-to-be whose final project before earning her rank was transforming the empty rooms at the church into a functioning, well-defined shop.

“It’s cool to see,” said deBlonk, who belongs to Troop 12 in Acton.

She started a GoFundMe campaign to buy the shelving and hangers to organize the space, and collected, sorted, and hung the clothing, coats and shoes, which arrived in plastic trash bags.

Along with a team of volunteers, deBlonk made signs in three languages — English, Spanish and Haitian Creole — for the racks.

The new shop has signage in three languages.
Photo by Betsy Levinson

Board member Carrie Finizio thanked the church for donating the space and the “hundreds of volunteers” who donated their time.

“It’s a mixture of relief and excitement to see everything come together,” Finizio said. “We hope their generosity will continue to ensure the Community Closet remains a support service for our two towns for a long time.”

“It’s a wonderful thing,” said incoming Select Board member Cameron McKennitt. “There was an unmet need, and they came up with a plan. Then the hard part started. It takes a lot of effort.”

Rep. Simon Cataldo (D-Concord) thanked the Community Chest’s allocations committee for “stepping up.”

“After I learned that the shelter opened, my next phone call was to the Chest,” said Cataldo.

Concord businesses which contributed goods include Fritz and Gigi, Reflections, Blue Dry Goods and the Thoreau Club.