COVID-19 can’t stop Ladies of Charity from helping those in need

By Kristina Shaw

Volunteers with the Ladies of Charity of Nashville offer food, financial and clothing assistance to Nashvillians in need, year-round. Due to precautions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ladies are postponing their Spring Consignment Sale to a later date. Above, Ladies of Charity Mary Peeke, left, and Judy Bontrager fill a Christmas box during one of the organization’s busiest times of the year. Tennessee Register file photo by Andy Telli

Despite the setback of postponing their annual Spring Consignment Sale due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nashville Ladies of Charity will continue to fulfill their mission “to serve, rather than be served.”

“We are disappointed of course. … We just need to be sure that our members are taken care of; that way we are healthy enough to be able to serve the public,” said Yvonne Clemence, the publicity chairperson and a member of the organization since 2014. “The end goal is to help the community and raise funds.”

This spring consignment sale, which was scheduled for April 3 to May 16, features women’s, men’s and children’s gently-used, name-brand clothing and accessories. The Spring Sale and a second sale in the fall are among the organization’s most profitable fundraising efforts and allow it to serve the community through its various assistance programs. These programs provide financial assistance, food and clothing. 

Nashville Ladies of Charity President and St. Matthew parishioner Arlene Smith, called the enthusiasm for the sale “amazing.” 

“When we open up there’s a line down the sidewalk,” she said. “We open at 10 a.m. in the morning and these people come in and they are high fives and yelling ‘Hi’ and ‘Hello.’” 

The Ladies of Charity, which was founded by St. Vincent de Paul, is part of the non-profit organization International Association of Charities. The Nashville branch has been in the area for more than a century. Last year it provided 1,590 households with food; distributed $13,972 in financial assistance; and clocked 31,423 volunteer hours, according to chapter’s website.

The Spring Sale was originally scheduled for April 3 to May 16. New dates for the sale have not been determined at this time. Smith recommended checking the group’s Facebook page for the latest information. 

The Spring Sale postponement influences two weeks-worth of appointments set up for consignors and will be a factor in setting up the new dates. The new dates will be decided upon by Smith and the Board of Directors. 

“We still should allow these people to come in with their clothes,” she said. 

Appointments are scheduled for consignors that have more than 40 items. They are invited to participate in the different sales and are given a letter with instructions for their gently used clothes and accessories. Sales last for six weeks and there are six weeks of product intake prior to its start.

Donations can also be made, and accepted items include jewelry, shoes and men’s clothing and shoes. Other items such as dishes, linens, décor and more are taken during the appropriate time for the organization’s Stuff Galore Sale, June 11-13.

Consignors receive 50 percent of their item’s sales and the other half of the profit goes to the organization’s Emergency Assistance Program. 

The Emergency Assistance Program, also known as the Welfare Office, distributes the resources to those in need, which are vetted by social service workers and service coordinators. 

The Welfare Agency Administrator Barry McCord estimated that 90 percent of the work he does is food related. Most of their food comes from partnerships with the Second Harvest Food Bank and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is used in food boxes. 

Those that qualify can receive four food boxes a year and an additional box at Christmas. The standard box includes fresh frozen meat, eggs, milk, bread, canned foods, cereal, peanut butter and jelly. Altogether it is enough food for 36 meals for a family of four. 

McCord said that many of these food boxes were distributed after the tornadoes that destroyed parts of Middle Tennessee earlier this month. Pre-existing clients in North Nashville were affected by the storms.

“A lot of those people couldn’t cook because they had no electricity,” McCord said. To accommodate, such individuals were given non-perishable food items with pop-top cans. 

“I like to keep plenty of that on hand just for such emergencies,” he said. 

The homeless that come in to the agency are given similar items along with foods like snack crackers and drinks. Those that come to the agency are also welcome to take free seasonal clothes that were not purchased at the sales.

A current initiative for tornado victims is providing clothing to children whose schools were destroyed in North Nashville. 

Additionally, the organization provides financial assistance for Davidson County residents for things like rent and utilities. 

The Welfare Office is open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It is located at 2212 State St. in Nashville.  

The store is only open to the public during the times of the sales and is located at 2216 State St. It is operated and run by volunteers. 

Holy Rosary parishioner Barbara Windus has been a member of the Ladies of Charity for eight years and volunteers her time on Thursdays during the sales and sales preparation. 

“I just think that it is a wonderful thing that we do,” she said, adding that she has become friends with “wonderful Catholic ladies.”

To donate to the Ladies of Charity visit www.ladiesofcharitynashville.org. The phone number for the store is 615-327-3453, and if you are in need of assistance, the number for the Welfare Office is 615-327-3430.W