March 17. 2013 10:16PM

Katie McQuaid's Scene in Manchester: Cleaning out the closet can help others

Special to The New Hampshire Union Leader

As I was driving out of my neighborhood two weekends ago, I saw a couple of people walking around leaving white garbage bags on doors and porches. But since I am not a nosy neighbor, I kept driving. When I got home, I found a bag on my own door attached to a yellow flier from Charity Clothing Recycle. The card said I could fill the bag with unwanted clothes and leave it on my porch for pickup the following Saturday.

Being the skeptic that I am, I assumed it was a scam and decided to check out the website. I was surprised to find Joe Whitten and Greg Salts - two local men - are behind the effort. I gave Whitten a call to find out why these men, with regular. full-time jobs, are collecting old clothes.

Whitten said he and Salts both have 9-year-old daughters in the same class at Mount Zion School. They got to talking at a birthday party last year about starting something that could help people in need locally and around the world. Salts had some experience with a clothing recycling operation in California. Given the hoops you have to jump through to start a non-profit, the pair decided to start an LLC.

The men and their daughters are dropping off bags at 500 homes a week. They had their first collection in one part of the North End this past Saturday and will pick up in another area of the North End this Saturday. The pair plans to make pickups in new neighborhoods each week in the Queen City, Bedford and Hooksett.

The clothing will be sorted; items in good condition will go to local families in need and the local organizations that help them. Items that cannot be worn again will be sold in bulk. Some of the revenue generated will go toward chickens and clean water for an orphanage built in Haiti by the local organization Vision International Missions. Some will be used to pay for Charity Clothing Recycle's expenses.

Right now, Salts and Whitten are doing all the door-to-door leg work with the help of their daughters, but Whitten said they hope to hire a few people in need of jobs.

"I've just always had a dream to create jobs and help out some people," he said.

There does seem to be growing competition for used clothing and other items. I am always getting mailings from the Epilepsy Foundation, which also offers pickup of clothing and other items. And Goodwill Stores are popping up all over the place with convenient drop-off carports.

But, let's face it. We as a nation are big-time consumers and if we don't want to be featured on an upcoming episode of "Hoarders," then we have to purge our closets a couple times a year. There is plenty to go around and it is nice to see our unwanted clothing have a new life helping people who need it.

"You see so much waste," Whitten said. "Are we really taking advantage of the blessings we have?"

As noble as the cause is, I told Whitten I would lose my mind if my husband started collecting bags of strangers' used clothing in our home.

"My wife said the same thing," Whitten said.

For now, a friend is letting Charity Clothing Recycle use his basement and garage. If this friend has a wife, I hope she doesn't find out.

Super spaghetti

I was pleased to get a call from Sister Jacqueline R. Verville last week. The director of the Holy Cross Family Learning Center was calling to ask for information about the Loeb Educational Grant (more about that later), but I had some questions for her. I have often heard about the Holy Cross Family Learning Center, which teaches reading, writing, employment and other skills to refugees and immigrants here in Manchester. Board member Amy Chhom, director of development at Anagnost Realty & Development, recently sent me some information about the center's upcoming annual fundraiser.

Verville said she spent more than 52 years working as a reading specialist in private and public school systems all over New England. Now the retired educator works free of charge as the learning center's director with other retired teachers and an impressive board of directors.

But while the teachers are working for free, there are many other costs associated with running the center. According to its website, it costs $100 just to provide one student the materials and supplies for one year. Verville said they currently have 120 students registered from almost 20 different ethnic groups.

Verville's dedication is impressive and her ability to attract so many other volunteers speaks to her leadership abilities.

You can help by offering a cash donation, or by attending Holy Cross Family Learning Center's 2nd annual Spaghetti Supper fundraiser at Holy Cross Center, 357 Island Pond Road, on April 12. Starting at 5:30 p.m., the evening includes fun food, mouth-watering desserts, entertainment and lots of fun. Tickets are only $10 and can be purchased at 438 Dubuque St. or by calling 622-9250.

Get this grant

I have the pleasure of sitting on the board of Union Leader Charitable Fund, Inc. We don't have many actual funds to speak of, but we do give out a nice $5,000 scholarship in memory of William and Nackey Loeb each year. It's open to anyone planning to attend college in the fall. That could be high school seniors, current college students or adults continuing their education.

The deadline is April 1 and applications are available at

For some reason we do not usually get too many applicants, so your chances are really good.

NH365.ORG Event of the Week

It's the opening weekend of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's entertaining family musical "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat."

Through April 6, the Palace Theatre will tell the biblical story of Joseph, his devoted father, his jealous brothers, and his incredible series of adventures. You can find a full list of dates and times at

If you have an interesting item for Scene in Manchester, write to