Outreach at St. Mary’s, Bloomington, finds new uses for mattresses, more

BLOOMINGTON — You might think of it as a gigantic “Lost and Found” department for the poor and those in need.

A little more than a year old, the St. Anthony Outreach Ministry of St. Mary’s Parish in Bloomington asks people to donate used household items that are in good condition — bedding and towels, appliances, tools and furniture — so they can be given to those who need them rather than ending up in a landfill.

“We decided on St. Anthony as our patron, because he helps find lost items,” said St. Mary’s parishioner Jeannine Montgomerie, who organized the ministry. “We feel that really these are items lost to those who need them, and we are finding them again.”

St. Anthony Outreach Ministry has already made a positive impact in the surrounding community, in other parts of the country and even internationally. Just in the months of May and June, the ministry obtained 2,600 mattresses from Illinois State University dormitories and sent them to impoverished areas of Appalachia as well as to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

St. Anthony Outreach Ministry does not have a warehouse for storage, so items must be collected, packed and shipped all in short order.

St. Anthony Outreach Ministry expects to fill 17 semis just this summer, Lally said. Many will go overseas, some to Louisa, Ky., and some going to Sister Maria Rosa Leggol, OSF, founder and head of the Society of the Friends of the Children in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

St. Anthony Outreach Ministry’s kindness has also been felt in the Bloomington-Normal community. They have partnered with other social outreach programs and organizations, including Midwest Food Bank, Western Avenue Community Center, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Peoria, Catholic parishes and other denominations.

Just since January, the ministry completely furnished eight apartments for senior citizens in need, and last June they took 43 power wheelchairs down to Appalachia and to others in central Illinois, said Montgomerie.

Most recently, the group furnished an apartment for a Hurricane Katrina survivor.

“The opportunity to touch someone who has been through that kind of adversity, it’s hard to put into words,” Montgomerie said. “We’ve helped many single women who just had nothing and were sleeping on their floors. It’s just an honor to be called to do something like that.”

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