Submarine families pay it forward with clothing drive

As a young Navy wife, Lindsay Bussick didn’t have much money for new clothes for her newborn.

Other Navy wives gave her clothing their children had outgrown. Garrett, who is now 9, wore the hand-me-down outfits until he was a preschooler.

Navy wives often swap clothes among themselves, Bussick said. If a sailor is leaving Groton for an assignment in a warmer climate, the family will leave behind the winter clothes that their children will outgrow.

So when the USS Pittsburgh families were looking for a way to help people who are struggling this holiday season, a clothing drive seemed like a natural fit.

“We got help when we needed it,” said Bussick, whose husband, Eric, is an electrician’s mate on the Groton-based Pittsburgh (SSN 720). “This is a chance to pay that forward.”

Garrett said he just wanted to make sure every kid is happy on Christmas. He told his mother he was worried that parents wouldn’t have enough money to buy winter coats for their kids and presents.

“I don’t want them to be sad,” he said Monday.

They spread the word on Facebook, and one of the wives, Minna Sanchez, drove around Groton picking up coats, hats and gloves from Navy families. They asked the Westerly Area Rest Meals shelter to accept a donation. Bussick said they chose the WARM shelter because it is not affiliated with a religious group.

It was the first time Russ Partridge, the executive director, had been contacted by anyone from the Naval Submarine Base.

“I’m hoping this will develop into a relationship with the folks at the base and encourage others to be involved,” he said. “We’re a little bit north but we do see people from southern Connecticut.”

Bussick and Lauren Peterson, who together run the submarine’s family readiness, or support, group, along with Sanchez, dropped off several large bags overflowing with winter garments Monday morning.

Garrett, who went to the shelter too, said now the other children will be “happy and smiling on Christmas Day.”

“It’s just really nice to help and I love doing it,” he said.

The large donation should help more than 100 people, Partridge said. The shelter has seen an increase in requests for services over the past three years and is now helping people who used to donate, he added.

“Things like this, as simple as it may seem to some, are extremely important to the population that we serve,” he said. “If they don’t have to spend their money on winter coats, gloves and hats, they’re able to use those resources to pay for their heat and food.”

Partridge said he was grateful to the Pittsburgh families, who “give on so many different fronts.”

j.mcdermott@theday.com

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