Angels of Long Island was started five years ago by Debbie Loesch in response to a tragedy in a friend’s family. Someone’s young granddaughter was without clothing or supplies for her new school after her mother was incarcerated due to an ongoing struggle with opioids. After facing ridicule and dismissiveness in Facebook yard sale groups when she pleaded for donations for the 7-year-old, Loesch decided to start her own Facebook group specifically for free items for those in dire need. Today, the Angels of Long Island Facebook group boasts over 20,000 members and its thrift store, located on 350-23 East Main Street in Patchogue, receives dozens of bags of clothing daily.
After hearing of the fire at the Fairfield Sunrise Gardens on Greenbriar Drive that displaced 20 people living in 12 apartments, Loesch rushed to action to offer aid to families in need, contacting the apartment manager and posting on Facebook. Angels of Long Island, described by Loesch as “neighbors helping neighbors,” has a critical role in helping those devastated by life circumstances in the most acute first days of their new struggle. After giving out 1,000 coats earlier this year, Angels of Long Island has become a go-to 501(c)(3) for those thrown into hard times. Fires are particularly destructive, as most families who fall victim to one are without even a change of clothes from the event. “I have so many clothes, many of them with the tags still on, to give to the victims of the Bohemia fire. We also have toiletries and appliances. It’s Christmas time and we can help make this holiday a little more normal for the children,” Loesch offered.
While the Angels of Long Island thrift store does sell items at affordable prices to offset their operating costs, those in need of items following a misfortune are able to “shop” the store for free. In her efforts to maintain the dignity of her clients, Loesch has organized volunteers to make charitable transactions appear like regular purchases. For example, all items are rung up and a receipt is given to sign for so that victims are not further stigmatized by their circumstances.
Loesch could not speak more highly of her volunteers (often completing community service hours) who come back to donate their time, or her clients who have become donors to her thrift store after getting back on track.