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About Sitio Clothing Ministry
by Linda Gottbrath
To Whom It May Concern:
I felt I was put out to pasture but couldn’t stop there so I began to wonder. God had his hand on me and continues to lead me. He is the potter and I am the clay. I won’t say that I am the pencil in His hand like Mother Teresa because he is still molding me. I’m a work in progress. When you are the weakest you are the strongest. I hope you all see God in my story. It is with great appreciation to the Lord for all He has done. I have and continue to dedicate Sitio to the Lord or none of this would be possible. I may be the Director, but God is the Executive Director. There is no earthly paycheck received. All monetary and clothing donations go to aid the less fortunate. What I do is entirely to quench the thirst of Christ.
Seventy-nine percent of marriages end in divorce after the loss of a child. My incredible husband and I will be married 45 years. I praise God for the grace to keep us together.
On July 30, 2002 our whole life changed. I was awoken around 5:30 in the morning to Vince screaming Jamie over and over in our driveway. As I pulled myself out of bed, Vince was running back in to call 911 and yelling Linda wake up – Linda wake up – Jamie is dead – Jamie may be dead – Jamie is in the garage – Jamie may be alive – I don’t know. So, I took off running as hard as I could to the garage, pulled him out of the car and began CPR. My husband had 911 on the phone and they kept him on there until the Fire Dept. arrived. Then the words no parent wants to hear are spoken. “Mam, there is nothing we can do.” Jamie had taken his life by carbon monoxide poisoning and just like that he was gone. Jamie, our only child who was alive the night before was now gone.
Our only child, Jamie, had taken his life and our lives were changed forever. He was my whole life. I was devastated. Now your attention turns to funeral arrangements. You are now buying a casket and thinking of cemetery plots. Jamie is now in a funeral home where a few nights ago he was safe at home or so we thought. After having been to the funeral home and knowing that I had to go back the next day, I couldn’t sleep. I went into the living room and began screaming to the Blessed Virgin Mother “How did you get through this? How did you get through this? I never in a million years did I think that she would literally answer me, but she did. She said, “We all have to die but through the Crucifixion my Son came back to me.” She is such a beautiful Mother and always knows what to say to comfort us. I never forgot her words. I’ve repeated them to so many others who have lost children.
From the Blessed Mother’s beautiful words began my devotion to console the heart of Jesus for what He had done for my son and all of us. To give back everything I could for what he had done by dying on the cross. It is beautiful to know that we have such an Awesome God and a beautiful Mother. However, no matter what I wanted, life was going on and would never be the same. Now where do I go from here? Your heart is breaking, and you don’t know where to turn. I knew where to turn though. I had been attending daily mass and the day after our son passed, I went to mass. The people said, “What are you doing here? I replied, “He has our son, where else do I go?”
God always has a plan and He uses everything for good. What good could possibly come from a suicide. All I could think of was please Lord let me help others so no one will have to endure another suicide. If we help these people, then they will have hope.
After helping a lady with 6 children for about 7 or 8 years I began to work with St. Vincent DePaul. This started me to collect clothes in my basement and attic for our clients. You must remember, at this time I also volunteered at the Golden Arrow, The Marian Center, repairing statues, as well as a member of the Dominican Laity. The Blessed Mother has me very busy. A lady with the Marian Center told me about Fr. Anthony at St. John Vianney. After approaching him it was confirmed that Sitio Clothing Ministry would open in the old 1st grade classroom. Since, we have acquired the entire first floor of the old school building. Sitio Clothing Ministry is now an outreach of St. John Vianney and a 501.c.3. Praise God!
I was really surprised and a little frightened, but I knew Our Lord was calling. This was a perfect location. Our clients come from the food line the parish offers every Friday. They also come from the Americana Community Center located next door, South Louisville Area Ministry, as well as the other Ministries and all zip codes. The neighborhood has changed over the years and there are now all nationalities living in the area.
Sitio Clothing Ministry is located on Southside Drive in the heart of Jefferson County. St. John Vianney works out well even with the language barrier. Fr. Anthony, a Vietnamese Priest, speaks English and has been very supportive of Sitio. People think that I take care of a lot of Vietnamese. This is the furthest from the truth. The parishioners believe in taking care of their own people. However, the Vietnamese people bring a large amount of clothing donations. Americana Community Center give the immigrants English second language classes, job assistance, medical assistance, help with taxes, teach them social skills, and provide health care services. God always knows best and he knew exactly where to put the clothing ministry.
The immigrants arrive facing many challenges including the largest one being the language barrier. Most bring only the clothes on their back, family members, and/or scars of war or famine. To speak with them usually involves charades, but I try my best to teach them English. The internet on my phone helps a lot to translate the various languages.
Sitio is Latin and means I thirst. At Sitio we quench the thirst of Christ when we give our clients the love of Christ. We get this wonderful feeling by watching our clients receive their gently used pants, shirts, shoes and oh yes, coats! They are so appreciative and some even cry. Recently I went to get my hair cut and a woman was sweeping around one of the chairs and said, “I know you!”. She said that Sitio helped her to get black slacks and tops to start her new job. Because of this new job she was doing very well. Another was tickled that we had given her a couple of pairs of capris. Yet another did not want anything for herself. Her clothes weren’t the best, but she only wanted things for her children. When I explained to her that we had plenty she changed her mind. Now I was able to see the hand of God at work. There are all kinds of rewards but to me these are the greatest.
Sitio serves all nationalities. Immigrants come from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Cuba, Afghanistan, Syria, Congo and many more. We also serve all zip codes in Kentuckiana. They come literally with the clothes on their back, unique stories of how they got here and are full of hope for their futures. To date this year Sitio has helped 1,185 adults and 1,584 children for a total of 2,769 people. Our adult clients come twice a year and the children come every other month. Diapers and formula are given out every month. The clients need to be either receiving food stamps, homeless, immigrants, unwed mothers, single mothers, out of work or suffering from some other kind of setback. There is no charge for anything given. As one client said when she was caught stuffing leather gloves under her shirt “Everything free – Everything free – I not steal – Everything free”. It is a steal at the price we charge. So, no one must steal anything. It is all freely given with the Love of Christ.
The Special Volunteers are the backbone of Sitio Clothing Ministry and help in countless ways. They keep the ball rolling. All that is required is to give love and time to others. The volunteers work very hard. When there are a lot of donations, I always say that God wants this ministry to continue. Well God has blessed us with a lot of donations but not so many volunteers. It sounds easy to sort the clothes and fill the orders. I assure you it is not that easy and sometimes very stressful. Tags are missing off garments, shoes have European sizes, or you go to put an order together and things are put in the wrong bins. The volunteers do a terrific job and the more the merrier. It is a hard job but loads of fun. It’s who we are doing it for that’s important and makes it worthwhile. If anyone is interested in volunteering or knows someone who would like to become a Special Volunteer, Sitio could sure use more hands! Again, the Special Volunteers do a great job, and Sitio is very blessed to have them.
Our gently used donations come from a variety of places. Sitio does not give out ripped, torn, stained, stretched, outdated, or faded items. Being a Christian organization immodest clothing like women’s low-cut shirts, short shorts, or see through items are not given out. Dresses, skirts, men suits are not kept due to space. There is a funny story about a prom dress a client saw in the basket. This client wanted it and so one of the volunteers gave it to her. About two or three days later she came in wearing the prom dress. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a prom. Electrical items cannot be accepted due to possibly being a fire hazard. Car seats and baby beds depend on the dates and a lot of times they are stained or dirty. Health department will not allow us to give out used underwear. No furniture is accepted due to space. Gently used clothing shoes, coats, toys, household items and blankets are accepted.
Sitio has an event called St. Nicholas Bag where every year we give toys to our clients under 12 years of age. Last year we gave toys to 219 children. This year Easter baskets were given out for the first time to 216 children. New or used toys are now being collected. It takes many volunteers to put the orders together and more volunteers to distribute them. The clients get cookies and hot cocoa. The volunteers who help that day are treated to a Christmas lunch. Santa Claus comes, and everyone has a good time. The clients are very appreciative.
If anyone has any extra space, I could use it for collecting and distributing the toys for St. Nicholas Bag. The space currently used for toys could be used for dresses, skirts, and men’s suits.
A lady came in and I was telling her that a long time ago I would get bored with various jobs and quit. She interrupted and said “Don’t quit this. This helps a lot of people.” Sitio is going on 7 years old and it is one job that I love doing. Recently adult clients have increased, and it is much harder due to fewer volunteers. As I said my volunteers are hard workers, but they would gladly share the load.
Our Lord who died on the cross showed me the Simple Path and with the generosity of our Awesome Donors makes this all possible.
These are the ways that you can help:
- Monetary donations allow us to serve the clients with new baby equipment like pack ‘n plays, baby and adult shampoo, diaper rash cream, diapers, pull-ups, Gerber Gentle, Soothe or Soy formula, Rice and Oatmeal Cereal, pacifiers, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, disposable shavers, backpacks, feminine products and to keep our facility running.
- Children clothing particularly boys’ and girls’ sizes 2 to 6.
- Men’s shoes particularly sizes 6, 7 and 8.
- Men’s pants sizes 30, 31, and 32.
- Coats in all sizes and genders. There were over 1,000 coats given out last winter.
- Children baby equipment Pack ‘n Plays, Highchairs, Strollers, Walkers, and fairly new car seats in good condition.
- School supplies, uniforms and children’s back packs.
- Black Garbage Bags, White Kitchen Bags, and Regular Grocery Bags like Kroger or Walmart.
- A volunteer to clean Sitio once a week or every other week.
- There is a doorway that needs to be widened for volunteers who are in wheelchairs.
- And of course, more volunteers.
When I spoke of Sitio which I attribute to Jamie’s death, Fr. Joe Rankin said from Death to Resurrection. As you now have walked this journey with me, I hope you can see from the death of our son I began wondering in the wilderness and then spreading the Good News. I could have stayed 3 days or longer in a cave but there never was time. The world kept turning. I had to go on without my son, but God does provide.
Jamie will always be missed but after our son’s death, I literally thought that I had been put out to pasture. God had a plan.
2 Samuel 12:23: “But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Shall I be able to bring him back anymore? I shall go to him rather: but he shall not return to me.”
I want everyone to know that it is only with the help of God that Sitio Clothing Ministry exist. I literally had nothing to do with it. However, Whatever I do for God will always be in honor of our son. I always wish I could do more for Jamie but helping others has made me realize that I am doing it for Jamie.
I get so much more than I give. I am humbled and excited to serve the community in which I live and to give these people hope. It is thrilling to give back to the city that has given me so much. It is truly a blessing. Again, the Blessed Mother’s words come to me. Through the Crucifixion my son will come back to me. This will be one happy day!
Matthew 25:40 “And the King answering shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as
Long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.”
Your partnership is wonderful. By aiding Sitio you quench the thirst of Christ. Please spread the word. Through the love of Christ may our clients build a better life for themselves and for our community. Only God can complete the work of Sitio.
My faith has grown and continues to grow. How Great God is!
We have an awesome God.
May God Bless You All Always!