REEDSVILLE — Fresh off the 25th anniversary celebration of Patrick’s Patches, Jerry and Judy Reis wouldn’t be surprised to see the organization still thriving another 25 years from now.
“I think we’ve got enough boxes here now to last us that long at least,” Judy said with a laugh while navigating her way through a room packed with donated clothing.
Based in the lower level of Holy Family School’s Reedsville site, Patrick’s Patches collects donated clothing, linens, books, furniture, toys, appliances and other household goods and prepares them for anyone in need. Items are free, with donations accepted when possible.
Doors are open one day per week year-round, with volunteers typically welcoming more than 50 people each week. Jerry recalls more than 250 people filling the building one day last year.
“It is such an amazing feeling to see that you’ve really helped somebody in need,” Judy said. “And to know it’s the whole parish, the village, the entire community … so many people helping out.
“Seeing people working together like that for the greater good, it makes me wish everybody who has ever donated a single thing here could see what happens when people really, truly in need get something,” added Judy. “Because of these wonderful donations, we’re able to help people have things in their kitchen to cook, or have some furniture for their family.”
Jerry and Judy have spearheaded those efforts every step of the way, even after retiring from their regular jobs 13 years ago.
Inspired after attending a Cursillo retreat, the Reedsville couple — along with a handful of fellow Holy Family Parish (Brillion) members — started Patrick’s Patches in 1993 inside the vacant St. Patrick Church rectory in nearby Maple Grove.
“We had electricity there, but no heat or water, so those first years were pretty difficult, especially during the winter,” Judy said. “Once we moved here in 2006, things really exploded.”
In Maple Grove, all of the donated items could comfortably fit in one small- to medium-sized room at the rectory. Now, the organization’s goods fill about 4,000 square feet, spilling over into the main floor hallway.
To help make room for newly-donated items, for the past two years clothing that remains on racks for a period of time gets picked up by Better Earth Textile Recyling in Glendale, Wis. That organization ships clothing to other countries.
Jerry and Judy each volunteer at least 20 hours per week. Equally important, they said, are the other volunteers — both parishioners and non-parishioners — who help shoulder the load. In particular, the couple cited Bob and Mary Jo Campana, as well as two deceased friends, Judy Denor and Marlene Gill, who were instrumental in helping get Patrick’s Patches off the ground.
“It’s overwhelming how much support we’ve received from so many people over all the years,” Jerry said.
Claire Letourneaux, who has known Jerry and Judy for two decades, described the couple as “very generous, hard-working, compassionate folks who put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this endeavor.”
Claire’s husband, Steve, is equally appreciative of the Reis’ efforts, adding, “What they’ve done over the years is given us a wonderful opportunity to reach outside our parish boundaries and do acts of charity to those in need. They’re a solid Catholic family who’ve been an inspiration to me and many of us in teaching us how to open our hearts and work for those less fortunate than us.”
Judy said the Bible can be felt throughout Patrick’s Patches.
“The Bible tells us we should feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned,” she said, noting Patrick’s Patches also collects school supplies for area students and winter jackets for local families. “It doesn’t say we should collect money for doing those things. It just says we should do them. So if you’re able to, you can leave a donation. And if you’re not able to, you can take whatever you need for free.”
Jerry was raised near Whitelaw, where he attended St. Michael Parish. Judy grew up near Reedsville, where she attended St. Mary Parish.
The couple wed 55 years ago at St. Mary Church. They have three children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
In addition to their work with Patrick’s Patches, Jerry and Judy are involved with the church picnic committee. Jerry also serves as an usher, chairman of the parish’s building and grounds team and part-time janitor at Holy Family School’s Reedsville site. Judy helps at church as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion.
Patrick’s Patches, 628 Menasha St., Reedsville, is open 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. the first, second and fourth Wednesday each month, as well as the third Sunday.