Joseph’s Coat– The Inside Scoop7.31.17
If you’ve driven West 7th Street in St. Paul on a Monday or Wednesday, you may have seen a winding line of people zagging its way out of an unassuming store front. Those people are shoppers, who have gathered to patiently wait for Joseph’s Coat to open so they can shop for donated goods for themselves and their family. Recently BIG INK donated new interior signage to the store and was so impressed with the specialness of the story, decided to find out more. Here’s what we learned from our interview with Cheryl Stern, Director.
Patricia Fetsch founded Joseph’s 28 years ago after witnessing an undeniable demand for household goods and clothing for people in need of help. She opened a small store in downtown St. Paul in 1989 that grew over the years, which lead to a move in 2003 to its current, larger location. Part of the growth can be attributed to the foundation of treating shoppers with dignity and respect, which the store has done since its opening day. Each shopping day sees over 400 individuals, all who receive the same opportunity at acquiring goods.
The store is an independent non-profit, without any religious affiliations and relies on philanthropic partners and the surrounding community’s charitable contributions. All types of goods are accepted, excluding food and furniture. The store uses a two day cycle of being closed during stocking, then opening Mondays and Wednesdays to distribute the goods. Since Joseph’s Coat only has one full time and two part time employees, it heavily relies on the surrounding community for volunteer shelf stockers, which the community generously fulfills, with over 140 individuals volunteering. It is the donated goods and the time of the volunteers that allows the store to serve close to 1000 individuals weekly. Stern notes, “It’s a wonderful thing because Minnesota is so generous.”
After two years of volunteering in the store, Stern found she couldn’t refuse the offer of becoming Director and gladly accepted the position in 2010. She says one of the most satisfying parts of working at the store is witnessing the transformation of some of its customers. Early in her career she met a family with two daughters. The mother grew up in Mexico City and moved to the U.S. hoping to attend college, but never did. The father was a laborer. This working family had a hard time making ends meet and would bring their daughters with them to shop at Joseph’s Coat. Stern recalled how much like their parents, the girls made the best of what they had and were appreciative of the help. Stern said, “She’d come in here and find clothing, then she’d alter it so it looked updated, short enough (or) long enough so she and her sister could wear it.” The daughter applied the same work ethic to her school work as she did to her alterations, which landed her a scholarship at nearby Macalester College. She will graduate from there soon and clearly attributes part of her success to Joseph’s Coat, as she is one of the current volunteers who helps at the store. “I’m really proud of her,” says Cheryl.
When a community unites to support those who are most in need, the generosity is often paid forward. Whether it be individuals volunteering their time, everyday people donating goods, or local businesses like Big Ink offering their services. From its founding to the present, community continues to be the core foundation of Joseph’s Coat. BIG INK couldn’t agree more and is honored to be a part of this incredible community. If you have goods or time to donate, you can find more information at: http://www.josephscoatmn.org/contactus.htm