Ossining's IFCA Helping Families On A Budget

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People crowd the IFCA's thrift store in Ossining. The shop helps low-income families find discounted clothing. Photo Credit: Courtesy of the IFCA Housing Network

OSSINING, N.Y. – Four years ago, Debra Descloux had no idea that when she answered the door at Ossining’s IFCA Housing Network that she would be paving the way for one of the organization’s most popular programs.

“It was just about winter and this little old man came up to me with two dollars in his hand and told me he was really cold,” Descloux, IFCA’s development director, recalled. “He was asking for a blanket. We didn’t have one so I went home at lunch and grabbed a blanket from home and when I came back I sold it to him for his two dollars.”

The man refused to take the blanket for free, Descloux said. The encounter gave her and Valerie Canosa, director of programming, an idea. The organization could ask the community for donations, sell the items to low-income families at rates far lower than any department store, and use the proceeds to help future programs. And because IFCA assists low-income families, the two soon realized they already knew how to reach out to those who needed their help the most.

The pair’s idea became IFCA’s thrift store, which assists dozens of local families in Ossining, Briarcliff Manor, Tarrytown and other surrounding communities every week. While the organization received a few boxes of donated items before, hundreds of boxes of clothing now come in every month.

“People wouldn’t take handouts, but they loved shopping here. They don’t have much money to spend after taking care of their families,” Canosa said. “We have a few who are homeless, and we’ll give them entire bags of stuff, but they won’t take it for free, so we’ll give it away for a dollar.”

The average price for an article of clothing is one dollar, and the thrift store manages to make upward of $20,000 every year to supplement its programs. Volunteer Catherine Nelson, who spends several hours each week helping prepare the thrift shop, said it is important that the shop use every donation it can.

“We don’t throw anything away. If we can’t use it, we’ll send it on to someone who can,” Nelson said. “People need clothing and shoes more than you know, so it’s really nice to be able to offer them whatever they need. We try to keep everything we get donated to us, because you never know who will need it.”

With the colder months approaching, IFCA representatives said, coats, blankets, jeans, hats, gloves and other winter items are needed the most. To donate to the thrift shop, residents are asked to email Descloux at ddescloux@ifcany.org. Residents can learn more about becoming involved with IFCA’s programs at 914-941-5252 or at www.ifcany.org. The IFCA Housing Network, 138 Spring St., was launched in 1968 as the Interfaith Council for Action Inc.

Attached: 2011 report of Interfaith Council for Action Inc., dba IFCA Housing Network (ifca_housing_network-2011_annual_report.pdf)

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