A shed for Madison County

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A simple 144-square-foot storage shed is making life better for many residents of Madison County.

The effort began with the St. Veronica Knights of Columbus Council in Chantilly. In 2014, Knight Paul Chadowski was collecting clothes for distribution by the Church of the Assumption in Keyser, W.Va. Twice a year, spring and fall, the council would load a large box truck with clothes and drive to West Virginia. The fall trip would include unwrapped children's gifts for Christmas.

The pastor was reassigned, and the new pastor said they had such a backlog of clothes that they didn't need more donations.

Chadowski went to Father Edward C. Hathaway, then-pastor of St. Veronica Church in Chantilly, to see if he had any ideas of where they could offer help.

Father Hathaway suggested the Madison Emergency Service Association (MESA).

"He wanted an organization that adhered to our Catholic doctrine," said Chadowski.

MESA provides emergency food, clothing, shelter and financial aid to Madison County residents experiencing a temporary crisis.

Chadowski contacted Earl Lord, a Knight from the St. Isidore the Farmer Council No. 13860 in Orange, and a partnership began. Lord lives in Madison, so he knows the need in the county.

The councils collected clothes, but soon discovered that there was more of a need for personal care products like toilet paper, deodorant, diapers, toothpaste and feminine hygiene products.

Jennifer McLeod, MESA executive director, said that personal care products are often not high on the shopping list of their clients.

"You can't purchase them with food stamps," she said.

Chadowski said that at times some high school girls would stay home from school during their menstrual cycle because they couldn't afford sanitary napkins. Providing this simple personal care product raised the self-esteem of young women helped by MESA, said Chadowski. It also cut down on girls missing class.

The councils shifted their efforts away from clothes.

Chadowski placed an insert in the St. Veronica bulletin for new personal care products. The first time this call went out, they collected 1,400 pounds of products. Their success began to strain MESA's capability to store products for distribution.

The solution was a shed that would be a temporary storage place, where products could stay for a few days before being distributed.

Lord and Chadowski went to their respective councils and, with some individual contributions, raised enough to cover the $2,600 cost.

At first, Chadowski wanted the Knights to build a shed from scratch, but after talking with Lord, the two agreed that it would be quick, and still cost-effective to order a pre-built shed and place it on MESA property.

They bought the shed from MWP Supplies in Madison, who donated the blocks and setup.

Lord worked with McLeod to find the best location for the shed.

McLeod said there's been a lot of activity since the shed opened several weeks ago.

"I don't think the blocks had settled before the shed was being used," she said.

There's still some work to be done. Lord thinks that shelves in the shed would be helpful.

MESA and the Knights are planning a celebration in the fall for the local community to see a how a simple shed can transform the lives of their poorest residents.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015