Volunteers Make Gabriel’s Closet a Labor of Love

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by Lucy Medvec

Gabriel’s Closet, one of Catholic Charities of North Louisiana’s most beloved programs, recently celebrated its fifth anniversary in operation. It was founded as a program to support and honor new life, the parents who come to Catholic Charities for help and the family as a whole. Since its opening in September 2012, Gabriel’s Closet has provided education, donations and resources for over 1,000 individuals in North Louisiana. It is housed in the sanctuary of the former St. Catherine of Siena Church in Shreveport.

What makes Gabriel’s Closet so unique is that it is solely run by volunteers with guidance from a Catholic Charities staff member Suhad Salamah. Whether it’s working with new mothers to select baby items, teaching parenting classes or sorting donations, this team of volunteers has one thing in common – the desire to help clients become the very best parents to their children.

Gabriel’s Closet volunteers can be classified into two groups: hands-on volunteers who work directly with clients; and the behind-the-scenes volunteers who sort donations, organize inventory and assist with office operations. We want to highlight and celebrate some of our veteran volunteers!

Angie Goodwin & Sheryl Sweeney
(Thursday morning sorters)

Angie and Sheryl have been volunteers since the doors opened in 2012. Both women attend St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish and learned about Gabriel’s Closet through their women’s circle group. Sweeney had just retired from teaching and was looking for something to keep her occupied. “I was going crazy and needed something to get me out of the house!,” she said with a laugh.  The sorter groups go through, catalog and organize the many items that are donated to Gabriel’s Closet.

Fran Stroker & Kathy Barberousse
(Tuesday morning sorters)

This mother/daughter team has been involved with Gabriel’s Closet even before the doors were opened. “My ladies’ circle group donated money for flooring in the original classroom so that we could have a place to operate Gabriel’s Closet,” said Barberousse. She and her 91-year-old mother volunteer every Tuesday morning because they enjoy giving back to people who need help. Barberousse is a retired Caddo Parish teacher and principal who uses her experience to teach mothers how to prepare their children for school. “I enjoy teaching the school preparation classes because I get to work directly with young mothers and help them get their children ready for when they start school.”

Betty Mirts
(Head Volunteer)

Betty Mirts is another original volunteer that stepped into the head volunteer role in 2016. She looks forward to working with the young mothers each week and “seeing the light bulb go off” when they have learned something new. She also enjoys working with children – especially as they grow over the years. “When we first started Gabriel’s Closet five years ago, we weren’t sure if it was going to succeed,” said Mirts. “We didn’t know what to expect. But now, we see how many lives we are touching on a weekly basis and it makes it all worthwhile.”
If you would like to volunteer for Gabriel’s Closet, contact Suhad Salamah at ssalamah@ccnla.org, or call 318-865-0200, ext. 108.

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