As they entered the cafeteria for their lunch break, workers at Men’s Warehouse in Pittston gazed in amazement at the strips of white material that fluttered from a hanger.
What had once been a dress shirt from their facility was little more than a collar and a row of buttons, because prolific seamstress Colleen Angel of Fairview Township had cut away the rest of the material and transformed it into five tiny gowns.
“You’ve got a special place in heaven. God bless you,” Men’s Warehouse employee Patt Salcedo of Exeter told Angel, who over the past five years has fashioned about 18,000 very small outfits and donated them to some 60 hospitals along the East Coast and in the Midwest.
When a recent Times Leader story reported grieving mothers, nurses and bereavement counselors have all explained to Angel how parents who have lost a baby before or shortly after birth derive some comfort from being able to dress the child in one of her gowns, Men’s Warehouse employees read it and wanted to help.
Shirley Naro of Larksville and Irene Jakucionis of Exeter independently suggested to inbound manager Christine Beavers that the Men’s Warehouse could give Angel the many dress shirts and vests that are discarded when some small flaw or bit of damage has made them no longer suitable to accompany a rented tuxedo.
“It’s much better than throwing away this stuff,” said Naro, who works in quality control.
“I was emotional when I read about it,” said Jakucionis, who works as an inspector. “I’m emotional now,” she added as she stood in the cafeteria on a recent Friday, watching her co-workers admire the display that Angel set up to show them how she is using their first donation of 200 shirts.
“One Men’s Warehouse shirt equals five families touched,” Angel had written above her display with the five little gowns and the remnants of the one large shirt.
“It’s beautiful material,” Angel said. “I love how it irons.”
“It’s amazing what can come out of leftovers,” Beavers said.
“I think it’s awesome,” Men’s Warehouse worker Mary Stokas of Pittston said.
After a few moments, Stokas mentioned a painful time, years ago, when she gave birth to a baby son who lived for only 12 hours. She would have liked to have dressed him in a little outfit similar to the ones Angel makes.
“It would have been nice,” she said, wiping her eyes. “I’ve got to go now.”
As another result of The Times Leader article, Angel said, the March of Dimes contacted her and offered to pick up and deliver the gowns to hospitals around the region. That will cut down on the postage she’s been paying.