Scout brings winter warmth
Teen mobilizes area families to participate in clothing drive
By Nanci G. Hutson

Fifteen-year-old Matthew Schumann of Ridgefield shows donated clothes to Hope Chest volunteer Darcy Birch.
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 clothing drive.

He also had to figure out the best way to distribute the clothes he collected.

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 clothes.

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 donation.

He never imagined one clothing drive would tap into such generosity.

"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 world.

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

at or at (203) 731-3339.

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