‘I didn’t think I would be starting a job so late in my life, but, you know, here I am.’
“I didn’t think I would be starting a job so late in my life, but, you know, here I am. I started Love, Nana about a year and a half ago in my house. We weren’t called Love, Nana back then, but I was making bundles of clothing and giving them to charities from my house. It changed my life because my husband died about a year and a half ago, right when I made my first bundle. After I made about 1,000, it got too much in the house. I have 28 grandchildren, so I’m a very busy grandmother. I’ve always written cards for them all these years and always wrote ‘Love, Nana’ on the card. So it was just a very easy drop to make it Love, Nana. I think that it’s really like home.
The clothes that I don’t use I can give to the thrift shop.
“My daughters said, ‘Mom, maybe we better put it into a bigger space so that you could have room to go around, and then maybe the Backyard Players & Friends could come and help you.’ They’re an inclusive, arts-based Long Island nonprofit for those with special needs. All the participants are Backyard Players. They get paid. They work for a two-hour shift, and that works out great.
“But there’s a lot that maybe can’t work just yet in the field. What we do is teach them life skills. I have washing machines and dryers. We fold. We iron. We do everything possible and help them prepare for being on their own — and at the same time prepare them for a job. And there’s always plenty of work to do because I’ve been getting an unbelievable amount of donations. I get clothing for 0-24 months, but sometimes I do start to collect little for toddlers because some of the babies have siblings and people ask me for toddlers.
“It’s filled my days. It doesn’t make me tired. The clothes that I don’t use I can give to the thrift shop. I don’t want any strings hanging off. I don’t want any zippers [unzipped]. I don’t want any stains or anything.
“But if it’s really got any marks or anything on it, I give rags to Sister Barbara over at Our Lady of Peace. She sells the rags and puts the money into the food pantry. So, it’s like everybody’s helping everybody else. We’ve only been here [the storefront] a couple of months, but we’re moving along so fast. It really came out of nowhere all at once, but I’m very happy to do it.”
Interviewed by Victoria Bell