The News-Times/Carol Kaliff
Fifteen-year-old Matthew Schumann of Ridgefield shows
donated clothes to Hope Chest volunteer Darcy Birch.
When Matthew Schumann lived in Dallas, he never needed a winter
coat. But after his family moved to New England four years ago, one
of his first purchases was a new, down ski jacket.
Now he can’t imagine winter without a warm coat, sweaters, boots,
hats and gloves — the necessities of life in New England.
But the 15-year-old Ridgefield high school freshman has come to
understand for some in the Danbury area, a warm coat is a luxury and
it disturbed him — a lot.
Last summer, when he was considering his community service
requirement to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, he decided on a winter
He also had to figure out the best way to distribute the clothes
From his twin brother, Garrett, who became an Eagle Scout through
a service project for the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury, Matthew
learned about The Hope Chest.
He admired the mission of that unique thrift store. The Hope
Chest allows those in need to select items they require at no cost.
Ordinary bargain hunters also can find used merchandise in good
condition at discount prices. It also gives people a place to give
away clothing with the assurance the proceeds benefit area nonprofit
organizations and their clients.
"It’s an excellent organization because they help so many
people,” Matthew said, noting The Hope Chest is affiliated with at
least 14 other area agencies from AIDS Project of Greater Danbury to
Datahr Rehabilitation Institute in Brookfield.
With the agency selected, Matthew got to work collecting the
First, he asked local hardware stores for plastic bags to
distribute to friends, family, and neighbors for donations. He then
got volunteers to distribute bags to their friends, families and
neighbors. To each bag was attached a handbill describing Matthew’s
project and The Hope Chest.
Matthew’s goal was to collect at least 500 items, but he thought
he might have been overreaching.
At the final tally, after 4˝ hours of sorting clothes, Matthew
and his volunteers counted 1,400 items suitable for donation.
Another 200 items of summer clothing were saved for a later
He never imagined one clothing drive would tap into such
"I was very surprised,’’ Matthew said.
In a letter to The Hope Chest, Matthew wrote, "The hard work was
worth it because these clothes can make a difference.
"Having come from Texas, I am not accustomed to the cold winter
weather. I am fortunate to have a warm coat, but realize that not
everyone is so lucky. I cannot imagine having to endure this winter
without warm clothes. I am grateful that The Hope Chest exists for
those people in the Danbury community that may be in need.”
Beyond the clothing drive, Matthew said, "I’m glad I was able to
help the community realize that they can help the community, too.’’
Interlude Executive Director Kathleen Deschenes said she is
thankful for the donated items, and is proud to know a teenage boy
can have such compassion.
"It was right from his heart that he wanted to do this, to help
people in need, and to promote awareness of the less fortunate to
the entire community,” Deschenes said. "I don’t think he could have
imagined the impact his work has had.”
Always community-minded, Matthew said he hopes one day to work
with the United Nations so that he can help people all over the
A sign in the store thanks Matthew for his generosity. With the
clothing drive done, he plans to volunteer at the thrift store one
day a week.
"He is a very bright, articulate, unique kid,” Deschenes said. "I
think at 15 I was concerned about the next movie I was going to go
see" He is not your average 15-year-old.
"I definitely want to know him when he grows up.”
Contact Nanci G. Hutson
email@example.com or at (203) 731-3339.