What a busy night at the closet — the free clothing distribution center our church has hosted for more than 55 years. Over half a century.
As one of the helpers, it felt really wonderful to successfully help people find warm clothing again for the coming winter — after closing down for so long when COVID came along. In the interim the coordinators tried several alternative distribution options, but none of them were quite working. So this was the first night of our standard opening where people could come inside, carefully masked, and look through and pick out the clothing that suited them.
As our church’s founder, Pastor Don Allen used to quote Jesus as he reminded us of our basic mode of operating: “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8).
My heart swelled as we dug into folding the clothing that people had picked out for themselves, from children to young parents to grandmas. As usual, the conversation was a mix of rapid Spanish, English, and, I’m sure eventually, there will be some Arabic and Russian in the air — the traditional four languages our signage includes. One woman collected bags and bags and BAGS (trash bag size)! I’m not sure where she will put it all but I’m confident it will likely be shared with many others or even sold to make a bit of money. We don’t worry about that. No one gets rich selling Clothes Closet clothing.
Although the quality of what we were able to share was tops — lovely clean and current sweaters, blouses, slacks, jeans, negligees, toddler PJs and socks.
A young man who had just moved here from North Carolina was looking for a nice pair of slacks, and a coordinating button-down shirt for a job interview. Many slacks were way too big for his small frame, but it was fun helping him figure out if something sort of matched or not. I gave him a quality pant hanger, the better to keep his pants looking nice and wrinkle-free.
A 60-ish woman, who walked slowly and carefully, was looking for a pair of slippers. She was wearing a nice pair of tennis shoes, so I tried to judge her size. All of the slippers were sadly, way too small. Some she admired were stylish and even sparkly. But there were none that were anywhere near wide enough.
Then I sneaked away to the storage closet where there are often many shoes that haven’t yet been put out, and spotted a pair of large slides that made this woman squeal in delight and approval. She was sure they would work for her, and it made me happy too.
Children drew and colored pictures in one corner of the large room. A tired toddler started whimpering, but the mother managed to hold not only the child but an armful of clothing as she shopped.
A Big Sister/Little Sister pair helped pack clothing for 45 minutes. As a long-ago Big Sister, I recalled the activities my “little” and I used to do. What a great idea to do good work for others, while connecting with a child whose family is headed by a busy single parent.
One grandmother was trying to help her granddaughter and great grandchildren settle on some choices. A young boy with tousled brown hair was being tolerant of some of the clothing the grandma picked out for him. They talked about needing more clothing for school this year, having weathered most of last year with homeschooling and online instruction. I’m sure this young fellow will grow up to be a helpful young man — at least if the respect he showed for his great grandma was any indication.
A night at the closet: always a peek inside the community in which we live, and mostly an uplifting experience. What local effort could use your volunteer help as we continue to struggle to conquer the COVID catastrophe?
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