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A Return to the Clothes Closet

October 25, 2021

Another Way for week of October 15, 2021

A Return to the Clothes Closet

What a busy night at the closet—the free clothing distribution center our church has hosted for over 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, 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.

Our Clothes Closet space downtown for a number of years, before moving back to our church building.

A 60ish 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?


What kinds of volunteer work do you enjoy or participate in?

When you were a child shopping, did you like the clothes your mother or other grown up picked out?

Did you have clothing favorites? Things you couldn’t stand??

Comment here or contact me at or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. It’s heartening to see in print some evidence of the light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel: “to successfully help people find warm clothing again for the coming winter.” I enjoyed the vignettes of people you tried to help match with suitable clothing.

    Bravo to those who designed outdoor store signage to include Spanish, Russian, Arabic, and English speakers. Your post reminded me of the years my mother worked at the International Gift and Thrift. Before she died, we took many of her precious canning jars to the donation center. Although she no longer had the strength or the need to can anymore, she looked at those jars longingly before they left her kitchen.

    My favorite volunteer work: Serving for 15 years in the pre-school department at our church. It was a nice counterpoint to the college students I “served” during the week. 😀

  2. Yes, I think we all felt that heartening spirit.
    Actually I should say our outdoor signage is not in all those languages. It is on the material we give people who come to the closet.
    Your vignette about your mother feeling a pang when her canning jars were donated is touching. Thanks for jumping in here!

  3. From Nick, commenting on several recent columns:

    There’s enough food and clothing for everyone in the world. Distribution is the problem. I saw a story about used clothing donations from the U.S. sent to a foreign country that missed the mark. Most ended up in the dump. We are so lucky to live here.

    Everyone has an addiction, it seems. A recent book claims that sugar is the number one addiction. The obesity problem supports that opinion. I’ve heard and seen that former alcoholics develop a sugar addiction. They substitute one carbohydrate with another. Some diabetics, unable to control their carb intake, compensate with another shot of insulin.

    My mother used the same Singer treadle sewing machine for over 60 years. She went through several leather drive belts and unknown quantities of needles and lubricating oil. Those sturdy machines were works of art. My sister inherited the machine and uses it as an antique stand.

    Returning to the subject of canning – My mom had 15 children between 1927 and 1955, in an era where large families were common, so canning in some 2-qt jars was convenient. She transitioned through glass and zinc to metal lids. She reused the metal lids a few times. Now former one-time lid users are doing the same because of the canning lid shortage last year. The shortage has eased but new pint jars still are scarce here.


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