St. Pauly Textile helps local parishes and those in need around the world
By Jennika Baines
Sun Assoc. Editor
According to the EPA Office of Solid Waste, the average American throws out 68 pounds of clothing and textiles each year.
But rather than clogging landfills with clothing that could take decades to deteriorate, many in the Syracuse Diocese are choosing to help those in need around the world as well as those right in their own parish by putting their unwanted clothes in St. Pauly donation sheds. There are 22 sheds throughout the Syracuse Diocese.
“We collect 70,000 pounds of clothes every day just in Central and Western New York,” said Ben De George, a vice president at St. Pauly Textile. “It’s amazing how much clothing is out there that people don’t want or don’t need anymore.”
St. Pauly Textile is a business which collects clothing and delivers it to relief organizations. While the business is not a charity, it does share its profits with each of the parishes who agree to take part.
It works like this: parishes agree to allow St. Pauly to put a donation shed on their property and a small, bright yellow sign in front telling passers-by that a clothing donation shed is there. People drop off sealed garbage bags of unwanted clothing, sheets or curtains. Someone from the parish comes to the shed once every day or so to move the bags away from the drop-off shoot and to the far side of the shed.
Trucks from the company arrive at the sheds once a week to collect clothes. If the shed is located in a rural area that doesn’t get much traffic, the trucks might come every other week.
The bags are brought to the St. Pauly site in Farmington, outside of Rochester, N.Y. There, workers bundle the bags into 1,000-pound shrink-wrapped packages about five feet high, five feet wide and 10 feet long.
Each package is sent to organizations like the Red Cross which then sort through the clothes and distribute them to people in need. The clothes are not shredded or recycled. De George said every item will go on to be worn by someone else somewhere in the world. Last year, clothes from St. Pauly made their way to 54 different countries.
The organizations pay St. Pauly pennies on the pound for the clothes they receive.
St. Pauly uses some of that money to keep their business in the black, and sends some of the funds back to the parishes who donated the clothes.
The amount of money a parish receives is based on how many pounds of clothing they donate. St. Pauly gives the parish $40 for every 1,000 pounds of clothing. That may sound like a lot of clothes, but the bags can add up quickly.
All Saints Church in Syracuse put a shed on their property on May 6, and since then they have collected 784 bags, which equates to approximately 26,000 garments, weighing a total of 8,702 pounds. The money they earn goes toward their Social Justice group, which has funded the construction of a school in Ecuador, a well in Kenya, and benefits the Dorothy Day House and Jail Ministry.
“I would say we probably get 50 to 100 bags of clothes a week,” said Pat Atkinson, a parishioner of All Saints. “The big thing is the end-of-season stuff. You’d hesitate to give it locally because then they’d have to store it or deal with it somehow, so it sits there for another season, and then another season.”
Atkinson said her husband walks down to the church usually every day to move the bags around. It takes five minutes or so to do, she said. But for a man like her husband Bill, who retired two years ago at the age of 79 — and that was only due to illness — it gives a real purpose to his day.
De George said parishes often use the sheds as youth group projects. “It’s a very easy project for the youth group to have because it teaches them about community and global involvement,” he said.
That’s the case at St. Patrick’s-St. Anthony’s Parish in Chadwicks, where the money the shed earns helps fund the youth group’s activities. “I think they are becoming more responsible,” said Father Arthur Krawczenko, pastor. “They have to organize the bags, put them to one side. They all know the cause of why we’re doing this. As Christians, we are called to take care of the less fortunate.”
Paul Loman, a director of faith formation who assists Deacon Tom Kane with the youth group at St. Daniel Church in Syracuse, said people at St. Pauly handled getting any permits that were necessary to put the shed on the property. They also provide extra bags in case one of the donation bags tears and there is a small box on the side of the shed for charitable donation receipts to file with taxes.
Loman said what really impressed him was when he learned that Joseph De George, one of the company’s founders, offers loans to help his employees buy a house without charging any interest. “When I heard that, that really made this an organization that I felt comfortable going forward with.”
The company was started by Joseph De George and his best friend since second grade, Paul Callerame. St. Pauly takes its name from what friends used to call Paul because of his involvement with numerous charities in the Rochester community.
Ben De George said he and his brothers help run the business now, and it’s a job he’s known he’s wanted since he was a little boy. “My job is basically to interact with the churches,” De George said. “It’s kind of like a sales job, but it’s like selling to the nicest people on the face of the planet.”