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Saint Mary’s community helps meet each other’s needs with free store

| Friday, October 11, 2019

In the basement of Le Mans Hall, a small room lined with shelves offers the Saint Mary’s community an opportunity to participate in a model of finding things they need and passing along things they no longer use.

“We have a free store that provides many things for students that they might be looking for, ranging from clothes and bedding to anything they might be looking for … that they don’t want to buy or can’t afford to buy,” senior Annie Maguire, the ministry assistant for Le Mans Hall, said.

The free store is one of several resources on campus that students can utilize when they find themselves in need, she said. Another of these is Mother Pauline’s Pantry, although it has no affiliation with Campus Ministry as the free store does.

“The free store is an initiative through Campus Ministry,” Maguire said. “Campus Ministry has run and operated the free store since its creation.”

All functions of the free store are overseen by Regina Wilson, director of Campus Ministry, Maguire said. It is staffed by the ministry assistants from each of the residence halls.

“It’s a really nice way we can share our resources as a community and look out for each other,” Maguire said.

The free store has a variety of items donated by the Saint Mary’s community, including clothing, bedding, school supplies and dishes.

“We want to take away any stigma that can come with not having enough funds to purchase your own clothes, your own binders, folders and materials for school,” Maguire said. “All these things are necessary as a student.”

Maguire said the expenses associated with being a college student are already high without the cost of items that are available in the free store.

“The mission is to … really emphasize how we can take care of each other as a community, not just in Le Mans, but uniting all the [dorm] communities together,” she said.

The free store opened to students for the year about a month ago, Maguire said.

“We decided we would find a clear schedule and try to get it out to students as soon as we could so that students would look at the schedule and plan in the days when they could come in,” she said.

In the past, students have noted the free store seemed to be open at odd times of day, Maguire said, so the ministry assistants who run the store want to make sure it gets better advertisement this year.

“Most students who come in are discovering the free store for the first time, but there are also some returners,” she said. “It’s always a joy to see people walking through the doors for the first time and understanding this radical model that is very different from our consumer culture where everything has to be bought and sold. The moment when a student finds out that they can just take something for free, their eyes light up and it brings a smile to their face, knowing that Saint Mary’s is supporting them in a way that they need.”

Maguire said members of Saint Mary’s faculty and staff are also welcome to make donations to and browse the free store. Donation boxes are located outside the free store, and their contents are placed on the store’s shelves each time an ministry assistant opens up shop.

“I think this is a hidden gem of Saint Mary’s that is unique to us,” Maguire said. “I don’t see this model embodied at other institutions, and I think it’s one thing that’s really special and speaks to our mission of really meeting the needs of students.”

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