The gift of a community that doesn’t give up

Dan Griswold removed pieces of a bed frame from his trailer to take into Catherine Beverley’s apartment, which he helped furnish alongside Sitio Clothing Ministry. (Record Photo by Kayla Bennett)

There was a chill to the air Dec. 1 in Louisville’s Shelby Park neighborhood, but the temperature didn’t seem to bother Dan Griswold. He spent the afternoon moving furniture into a third-floor apartment for a woman he’d never met.

“Anything in the truck you want, you can take,” he called over his shoulder while carrying a bed frame up the stairs. “There’s some clothes and movies, stuff like that in there.”

Griswold had earlier in the day picked up furniture from someone who donated two households’ worth to Sitio Clothing Ministry, a charity shop located at St. John Vianney Church. Linda Gottbrath, the ministry’s director, arranged for him to deliver a twin bed, couch, kitchen table and chairs, TV and other odds and ends to a Jackson Street apartment, so that’s where he went.

Griswold is in the “rubbish removal” and vintage furniture sales business. When the opportunity to help Sitio Clothing Ministry presented itself, he gladly signed up. Volunteering his time and resources would allow him to share the gifts he’d been given.

“We were getting a lot of stuff (in his business) we had no desire to sell but that wasn’t junk,” he said. And with Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home” in mind, he opted to donate those items and his time to Sitio Clothing Ministry.

“I’ll be the labor, you just tell me where to be and when,” he recalled telling Gottbrath. “I would say we’re averaging two houses a month. Sometimes it’s more, but not a whole house. … A lot for refugees and underprivileged. It’s really fulfilling work.”

Griswold said the work is a gift, one of a series he’s received that has enabled him to share his gifts. 

His parish, St. Paul Church, and the connections he made in that community were his first gifts.

Griswold got sober in 2016. But as an addict, he had wracked up a criminal record and burned bridges.

“As a functioning addict, I would start a career, I would do well, I’d be good at it, people would cover for me, it would go and go, it would collapse,” he said. “As I got older, the collapses would get more spectacular. Then I would start over.”

Shortly after gaining his sobriety, Griswold moved in with his sister and, at his dad’s request, attended an ACTS Retreat at St. Paul. ACTS Retreats focus on adoration, community, theology and service and are designed to help participants enter into a new or deeper relationship with the Lord and fellow parishioners. 

Griswold figured he would go on the retreat, get a few good free meals and make his dad happy.

“What happened on that retreat made me care about God and restored my faith,” Griswold said. “That was the first real gift.”

The men in his retreat group held weekly prayer meetings, which Griswold attended. 

“A lot of times going to the weekly prayer meetings and having men who were good influences around” got Griswold through rough times, he said. “Every week was a gift, and knowing they had my back was priceless.”

Then, a neighbor gave him a few trailers and an old truck. Those were his next gifts. He started scrapping metal. When scrap-metal value fell and he couldn’t keep the old truck running, he leaned on the men in his retreat group.

“I talked to guys in my group, went to a few more retreats, did what people asked me, helped with church picnics, nothing major,” Griswold said. “When it became clear it wouldn’t be so easy to get a regular job because of my criminal record, I didn’t know what to do.”

A St. Paul parishioner approached him with an idea for a business model — selling goods that retiring Baby Boomers are offloading. Then in late 2019, he told Griswold he would buy him a new truck.

“He made our whole family,” Griswold said. “He helped us all.”

All in all, “It wasn’t like one gift,” he said. “It was many gifts from many different people. People are like, ‘Wow, look at what you did for yourself.’ I did nothing for myself. I did things to help those around me but only by those gifts from those around me.”

Griswold said the gifts he’s been given have made him humble. 

“People kept telling me I had potential and this is people showing me how they felt,” he said. “People in this community did this for me. One person bought the truck, but it was a lot of people and a ton of gifts from people in my community. 

“They’re telling me to be the person I’m supposed to be. Walk upright. Go out into the community and bestow those gifts to others.”

And he knows who to thank for sending those people into his life.

“It all comes from God,” he said. “I felt like I needed to drift until God gave me a way because my way wasn’t working. And here I am.

“I wake up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘You’ve received gifts that you did not deserve. You have to repay them.’ ”

Catherine Beverley, the woman whose apartment Griswold helped furnish on Dec. 1, had lived without much furniture for a month before she found Sitio Clothing Ministry.

“It means everything,” she said, looking around her living room. “It’ll really change my life. This is all the furniture I needed to buy. It’s gonna make my Christmas a lot better. It’s gonna make my son’s Christmas a lot better. This is wonderful. It actually looks like a living room now.”

Kayla Bennett
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Kayla Bennett
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