6 - April 6, 2012 | Pelham - Windham News Catie’s Closet Opens Doors
Catie’s family - Anne-Marie (Mom), Victor (Dad), Dan (brother), Sam (sister) Mike (brother)
by Maureen Gillum If you haven’t heard of Catie’s Closet yet, rest assured you soon will. That’s because it is a brilliant solution to one of today’s greatest needs - supporting underprivileged children - and is championed by sisters-in-law, Anne Marie (Gagnon) Bisson, Laura Bisson (two-term Hudson School Board member), and three other
indispensable Catie’s Closet (CC) board members, Mickey Cockrell, Denise Trombly, and Lynne Baril. The board mimics their inspiration, Anne Marie’s life-affi rming daughter and Laura’s niece, Catie, who tragically died at 20, two years ago. In short, Catie’s Closet offers students facing
fi nancial hardship or homelessness help with fundamental needs, like clothing and toiletries, in the hope they can be better prepared to focus on their education. It strives to replace the effects of barriers, such as lack of clothing, hygiene products, or transportation issues, with hope, support and confi dence so students may attend school and succeed in life. The inspiration behind Catie’s Closet is Catherine (aka Catie) Bisson, who died in March 2010 at the tender age of 20. Catie had faced a lifetime of obstacles and triumphed over them with characteristic optimism. Catie’s Closet was created to honor her unwavering determination, optimistic attitude, unselfi sh character, and generous spirit.
Anne Marie Bisson, CC Founder and President, recently shared about her daughter, “Ever since Catie was a baby, she was a survivor. Catie faced many challenges throughout her life, from major reconstructive heart surgeries, to diligently working to keep up with her schoolwork and achieving honor role.” She explained, “For the students who are struggling in school, whether it’s for acceptance, attendance or grades, I wanted Catie’s story, and her drive and desire to triumph over adversity to inspire them.” Having recently celebrated
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its fi rst annual Gala and sixth school location opening, Catie’s Closet is truly an amazing success and fast-growing regional phenomenon. Just two months after her death,
Anne-Marie and Victor Bisson (Catie’s parents) and Founders of Catie’s Closet
the fl agship Catie’s Closet opened on May 23, 2010, at Lowell (MA) High School, where Catie graduated. Based on the enormous need, other closets quickly followed and there are now currently four locations in Lowell Schools and two in Hudson - Nottingham West Elementary (pre- school to grade 5) and Hudson Memorial School (grades 6-8). Of note, these closets not only serve kids in these six schools but are open to all regional students in need from Hudson, Pelham, Dracut, and Lowell.
In order to manage the closets more effi ciently, the non-profi t took a giant leap of faith and rented space in Dracut, MA in late 2011, as their Distribution Center and Administration Offi ce. This enabled greater effi ciency in accepting, sorting and distributing goods to the ever- expanding in-school closets.
In another CC milestone, more than 200 people attended the First Annual Gala to benefi t Catie’s Closet held at the Tewksbury (MA) Country Club on March 24, where more than $22,000 was raised through ticket sales, 54 auction items and 27 raffl e baskets. “The benefi t was an awesome success, far better than we ever imagined,” reported Catie’s Aunt, Laura Bisson. “It was a wonderful night to celebrate Catie and how she always believed in helping those less fortunate.” Laura also thankfully commented that Gala support from friends, family and the community was “overwhelming and humbling.” A second Annual Gala date will be announced soon. A notable highlight of the Gala was directly hearing from one of the many hundreds of grateful
T e life-affi rming Catie Bisson (1990-2010) strongly believed in “the benefi ts of a good education” as the “foundation of a strong and intelligent generation,” the key to “opening doors” and “building tolerance and peace.” She practiced “paying it forward” and dreamed of “inspiring people to be the best they can be.” T rough generous community support and the growing success of Catie’s Closet, her positive legacy impacts many regional children in need each day.
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Time to Get Ready for Spring Clean-Up
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by Barbara O’Brien Now that spring has offi cially
arrived and winter is, hopefully, behind us for the time being, town offi cials in Windham are preparing for the annual clean up that traditionally comes with this change of seasons.
During the board of selectmen’s meeting on March 26, the extension of two contracts, as well as the implementation of a new agreement,
was unanimously approved (5 to 0). Windham Highway Agent Jack McCartney recommended the extensions, as well as the new contract. The contract relating to the
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sweeping of roadsides throughout Windham was extended for an additional year at the same cost charged for 2011 ($69.75 per hour, including equipment). Last year, the job took the contractors approximately 97 hours to complete. McCartney said he expects the road sweeping to get underway early this month, depending on the weather. The bid for roadside mowing also
came in at the same cost as it was for 2011. McCartney said roadsides would be mowed twice during the upcoming growing season, for a total of $16,740. The contract for the cleaning
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of catch basins along town roads was signed in 2011 for a three- year-period. McCartney reminded selectmen that this had been the lowest bid received last year. Two years remain on the contract. Last year the cost was $14.50 per catch basin. This year the price is $15 each. Debris cleaned from the catch basins will be disposed of on-site in Windham, the same as was done last year, McCartney said. One road-related chore still needs to go out for bid, that being the sealing of cracks in town-maintained roadways. McCartney said nothing was done relating to sealing cracks in the roads during 2011. “We need to put it out to bid,” McCartney told selectmen. “We haven’t gone out to bid on this since 2008.” The last contract signed for this type of roadwork cost taxpayers a total of $28,000.
Catie’s Closet recipients in the region. A high school Junior, Alexandra, powerfully shared how “hard it was to initially go into the closet” but once she was there, “it opened up a whole new world for me. For once I felt like the other students.” Catie’s Closet was founded to foster confi dence in local students who are fi nancially struggling. With this support, students are able to walk a little straighter, hold their heads a little higher and focus on their education. Ultimately, they have a greater sense of belonging, which boosts higher attendance rates and better grades. “As our tagline says, it is ‘an open door to a brighter future.’ But it’s not just about the tangible items we provide. Most importantly, our students know there are people who care about them, support them and love them,” expressed Anne Marie Bisson. “These are the basic necessities all human beings should have and Catie’s Closet is proud to be a small part of their lives.” Catie’s Closet’s greatest current needs are toiletries (shampoo, razors, sanitary supplies, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes), new socks and underwear, and gently used trendy teenage clothes, for kids of all sizes, age 5-18. As warm weather approaches, fl ip fl ops will be in especially high demand. For more information, visit www.cat
iescloset. org or e-mail info@ catiescloset.org
. “We know that Catie is exceedingly happy about the success of Catie’s Closet!” declared her parents, Victor and Anne Marie Bisson. “We have helped so many students already and there is no end in sight to how far we may go. Catie’s Closet is a fi tting tribute to the wonderful, inspirational young woman who touched all of our hearts, and forever will.”
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