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Founding of the Warde-robe

Sisters of Mercy Alberic Martin and Lois Harten had long ministries behind them when they began planning their “retirement” in the late 1990s. They one day struck up a conversation and learned they shared a common vision for retirement: Creating a thrift store for the financially poor. Their vision became reality when they opened the Warde-robe in Central Falls in 1996.

Late 1990s:

After a long search in Central Falls - Rhode Island's poorest city - the Sisters finally found a storefront at 1286 Broad Street. They rented one room at the front of the building, and named the shop The Warde-robe after Mother Frances Warde, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy in the United States.

They aimed to provide a place where poor families in the area could shop and feel respected and comfortable. Where they could share their lives with the Sisters.

In the early days, donations were mostly made by other Sisters of Mercy and their families. Customers began calling the shop “the Nun’s store.” And they still do today.

As the store grew in both donated items and customers, the store expanded a room at a time. Eventually, it took up the entire first floor of the building.

2000 and Beyond:

Sr. Alberic retired from daily management duties in 2000. Sr. Lois followed four years later. Wanting to ensure the ministry continued, they approached McAuley Ministries and asked that the store come under the Ministries’ umbrella.

In 2004, the Warde-robe became part of McAuley Ministries and the Rev. Mary Margaret Earl was hired as manager. In 2005, she moved to McAuley House and Donna Benetti was promoted to the position.

The Mercy Spirit is preserved as customers and staff are influenced daily by the continuing presence of the Sisters of Mercy.

Even today, the staff can be seen working diligently alongside Sisters who now volunteer in the store front at the cash register, or in back, sorting clothing. Sisters coordinate and transport donations, do laundry and many other tasks to meet the growing needs of the poor in the city.


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