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  • Providing more than clothes. By Paula Larson.

St. Anthony’s Closet

St. Anthony’s Closet

Imagine that you are in the hospital. You appreciate the medical care and are glad that you are about to be released—but you don’t have clothes to wear home.

Maybe your clothes were cut off of you or you got blood on the clothes you wore in and no one is available to bring you clean ones. Maybe you just moved here and don’t have anyone to grab you a change of clothes from home. Or maybe you just don’t own more clothing.

If you are in St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor, you have a group of people who literally have you covered. Welcome to Anthony’s Closet.

Anthony’s Closet is a service at St. Anthony Hospital that provides brand new clothing such as sweatpants, shirts, sweatshirts and underwear for no charge to patients being discharged from the hospital who, for whatever reason, do not have clothes to wear home. But clothes can mean more than just the shirt on your back.

“It’s to support the patient’s dignity, health and comfort,” explains Carol Arjo, current president of the St. Anthony Hospital Auxiliary.

The Auxiliary is an all-volunteer group that manages the Closet. Currently numbering 28 members, its members work to support St. Anthony Hospital and the Gig Harbor community.

Any patient in the hospital who needs clothes to go home will get them from the Closet. The hospital staff can request clothes from the supervisor, head nurse or chaplain’s office. Security staff gives hospital staff access to the Closet to get the necessary clothes, meaning that any time, day or night, the Closet is open to provide clothing for patients.

Just how many patients need this service? In 2017 alone the Closet provided clothes for 379 patients. That’s 743 items of clothing in one year! That’s a lot of clothes—and the demands on the Closet are expected to grow. Earlier this year St. Anthony Hospital opened a new floor that will increase the overall patient capacity of the hospital by a whopping 40 percent. The Auxiliary anticipates this increase is going to result in even higher demands on the Closet.

“We spend $4,000 a year now,” says Arjo. “And with the Fifth Floor opening I’m sure that’s going to go up. We buy the cheapest clothes we can, but they still cost a lot.”

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Sometimes community groups will donate new clothing, but the vast majority of the money to keep the Closet stocked comes from fundraising by the members of the Auxiliary. They have bake sales at the hospital every spring and fall. Every member of the Auxiliary and some of the hospital staff make baked goods, and anyone from hospital staff to the public can buy them. The $800 to $1,000 raised annually from these yummy fundraisers is dedicated solely to the Closet.

“The hospital and its employees really supports us, and so does the community,” says Arjo. “If you want to support us, come to a bake sale!”

Additional funds come from their annual fundraising events. Generally the annual fundraisers support a wide array of hospital needs, but the last two have been dedicated specifically to funding Anthony’s Closet.

What does the Auxiliary do when they aren’t managing Anthony’s Closet?

They have been meeting since 2008, before St. Anthony Hospital even opened. They support patients and the hospital by doing everything from making decorative tray favors to brighten the patient’s day (which they have done every month since 2009!) to buying activity books and crayons for the children who come to the Emergency Department. They have also spent their own personal money to buy Christmas gifts for community children in need.

“Our purpose is to support the hospital and help the community in any way that we can,” notes Arjo. “Most of our annual fundraising efforts, prior to the last two, have been brunches at Anthony’s restaurant. They brought in anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 each time.“

These fundraisers enabled the Auxiliary to fund the Closet and much more.

“We’ve bought some massive amounts of equipment for the hospital—ventilators, special beds, physical therapy equipment,” reports Arjo.

In addition to the patient-centered work the Auxiliary does, each year they also provide two $1,000 scholarships for St. Anthony Hospital employees to further their medical education.

Between running Anthony’s Closet, fundraising and everything else, the Auxiliary takes on a lot of work, but it is a labor of love—and fun!

“We have fun, yes we do,” says Arjo. “We enjoy it. It’s a good group of people who just get along well. We all have the same focus, we’re here to help and do whatever we can do.”

So rest easy knowing that if you find yourself in St. Anthony needing some clothes, the Auxiliary has got your back.

Want to join the Auxiliary, donate money or find out more?

The St. Anthony Hospital Auxiliary meets on the second Tuesday of the month at St. Anthony Hospital when they come back from a summer off. They are always open to interested volunteers. To donate, participate in fundraisers or find out more about the Auxiliary, give Carol Arjo a call at 253.851.8700.

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