Michelle Deslandes (left) and Julie Bushey (right) pose with the collection of hats, scarves and gloves they collected in 2021 to spread this October throughout Taylor Park.

ST. ALBANS CITY — Michelle Deslandes and her sister, Julie Bushey, each have entire closets devoted to winter hats. 

After emptying their contents throughout Taylor Park each fall, they spend the rest of the year filling them back up.

“I cleaned it out that night, and the next morning, I was at a lawn sale,” Deslandes said.

Earlier this month, the two sisters spent a Friday evening placing roughly 550 hats, scarves and gloves on the trees, benches and lawns of Taylor Park, providing free warmth to whoever needs it. 

It’s their own little way of helping out the community.

“It all comes down to giving and helping people,” Bushey said. “An act of kindness goes a long way.”

The two sisters began collecting winter gear five years ago. Bushey said she was volunteering at Martha’s Kitchen one day when she noticed that some of the homeless who use the service didn’t own a hat or scarf. She pitched the idea of collecting some and spreading such apparel in Taylor Park to Deslandes.

“I said ‘I was thinking about doing the same thing,’” Deslandes said.

Since then, the two spend a portion of each year on hat watch, and they take donations throughout the year of gently used, new and homemade apparel.

“One year, we put it out on Facebook in the spring. Why store it when we’ll store it for you and put it out in October,” Deslandes said.

They also can be seen throughout the summer months hitting up garage sales to find winter apparel on sale. Most people give them deep discounts when they learn what the sisters do each year.

“We do really appreciate the people that do help us. It wouldn’t work without them,” Bushey said

What isn’t purchased or found at yard sales, they provide themselves. Deslandes herself crocheted about 60 scarves last year.

On rare occasions, the two encounter homeless people in Taylor Park when they are out scattering hats and scarves. Deslandes said one man asked if he could help them out as payment for a hat.

“You don’t have to ask,” she said. “That’s what it’s for.”

Neither sister said they expect any help or appreciation for doing what they do. Both volunteer heavily in the community at a wide array of nonprofits, and giving people hats, scarves and gloves is their own little way of helping out each October. 

“I already have a bag ready for next year,” Bushey said.

“I already do, too,” Deslandes added.

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