Joseph Heimbrook

Eleven-year-old Joseph Heimbrook of Meadville looks through coats donated for Halloween while attending a Thankful Thursday event Monday at St. Brigid Roman Catholic Church.

The hot glue guns were warm and loaded, the duct tape was ready and staple guns were standing by. The tools were arranged at the end of a long row of tables bearing clothes of all sorts and sizes, colorful hats, sparkly accessories even a guitar and some old-fashioned badminton rackets — everything needed to tackle a do-it-yourself Halloween costume.

Dozens of people descended up St. Brigid Roman Catholic Church Parish Hall on Monday for the first Meadville Community Costume Construction Party, organized by Thankful Thursdays and the Center for Family Services Thrift Store.

After a spring and summer filled with multiple volunteer cleanup efforts by the Thankful Thursday group in and around the city, John Hartnett, one of the group's organizers, was impressed by the crowd that was busy at work just minutes into the event.

“I think we'll definitely be giving out some costumes to kids,” he said. “It's looking like our most directly helpful Thankful Thursday event yet.”

And on a Monday, no less.

The idea to let kids make costumes for free was proposed by Auna Walters after she noticed social media discussions of trick-or-treating by older kids who may not wear costumes. While the lack of costumes could be because the kids still want candy despite having lost interest in the dress-up aspect of Halloween, there could be other reasons, Walters thought.

“Not everybody can afford to have a costume,” she said as the costume construction party was underway.

Everyone was welcome at Monday's event, and even if older kids weren't interested in making their own costumes, Walters was hopeful some might come to help younger kids.

The younger kids were not having any trouble finding costume ingredients as Walters watched. Whether it was a sports uniform, the perfect belt or even a boa or two, there was something for everyone.

The clothing and accessories all came from the Center for Family Service Thrift Store, 213 W. Center St.

“We had costumes and different items down at the store that we could donate,” thrift store manager Tommy Braner said. “I think what they're doing is absolutely wonderful.

“We're just trying to bring the community together,” she added.

The thrift store's selection can be useful for costume making, according to Braner, who encourages employees to construct their own costumes to wear at the store for Halloween each year — even the shop's canine mascot.

“Today she was a devil,” said Braner, who has dressed up as everything from a deer to Minnie Mouse in recent years.

A similarly wide variety of costumes under construction was evident as youngsters — and some not-so-young people — considered their options and pieced together unusual combinations of attire. The younger people present seemed to be doing most of the selecting while the older members of the crowd tended to be the ones hunched over and attending to the actual craftsmanship. It was not yet clear if their work would be rewarded with treats when the big day comes.

It was quickly becoming clear, however, that Walters' idea had legs — perhaps six of them, in keeping with the spooky theme.

“We didn't have a lot of time to advertise — we only came up with the idea last week,” she said. For the same reason, the event couldn't be staged on the usual Thursday for the group's events.

Despite the late notice, Hartnett was already considering the possibility of making the event an annual one.

In the meantime, he said, Thankful Thursdays has two more events planned for this year: a community potluck on Nov. 30 and an assistance session to help people with the online health care registration process. Additional details on when and where both events will take place should be available soon, according to Hartnett, and will be posted to the group's Facebook page.

Mike Crowley can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at

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