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Springfield’s Gray House struggles to keep shelves full

July 31, 2014 | Peter Spotts

Gray House Executive Director Dena Calvanese stands in the thrift store, open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays. She expects the shelves to empty within a week.
Reminder Publications photo by Peter Spotts

SPRINGFIELD – The Gray House has been providing human services to those in the Springfield region since 1984; however, they’re the ones who need the help this time.

The thrift store and pantry, located at 22 Sheldon St., is seeking donations as they struggle to continue to help out those in need.

“It’s a week by week struggle. It almost goes out as quickly as it comes in. The past two years it’s been harder to keep up with need. We’re making it, but only just making it,” Gray House Executive Director Dena Calvanese said. “It was basically empty last week, [but] once we got the word out [and the] generosity was incredible.

“It’ll reopen and I think this stuff will fly out of here. We’ve had so little so people will be excited we have something. Please keep donating. Everything here is from donations, we don’t purchase anything,” she continued.

The thrift store is open on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Gray House also has a food pantry that is open on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“We distribute groceries once a week to folks in need. We serve about 11,000 people each year. The number continues to rise, especially since [the] federal government[’s] cuts to food stamps,” Calvanese said.

The Gray House also provides other services beyond the pantry and thrift store.

“We use the food pantry and thrift store to help people with basic needs. We also have an adult education program and after school and summer program [for children],” she explained.

Volunteers and donors help make the Gray House a success.

"All our programs are run by volunteers. We have about 50 regular volunteers. There are only two full-time employees on staff so our volunteers are really crucial,” she said.

Calvanese has been working full-time with the Gray House for eight years after beginning as a volunteer and has seen how essential donations are to keep everything running.

“I had volunteered years ago so I knew of it through that and joint fundraisers with Open Pantry,” she explained. “[The thrift store and pantry] only roll when people are donating. It goes in, but it goes out very quickly.”

Those interested in donating can drop off food or clothing Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. or set up an appointment by calling 734-6696. More information is available at www.grayhouse.org.

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