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Clothing Closet prepares for return to in-person browsing

Doors will be open Thursdays beginning Sept. 9 for people in need of free, used clothing and linen

As the pandemic has progressed, The Clothing Closet has been forced to close its doors to walk-in “shoppers” several times due to lockdowns. With plans to re-open on Sept. 9, coordinator Lisa Burke is hopeful that trend has come to an end.

“It’s such a relief. We’ve really missed the community,” she said. “It’s nice to be getting back to some sense of normalcy.

“We really need to be present in the community and be there for people.”

The Clothing Closet – an outreach endeavour from New Life Christian Reformed Church on Victoria Road North – provides free, used clothing and linen to people in need. Items are arranged on racks to resemble a thrift store, allowing people to browse through the offerings and decide what they’d like.

As with most other in-person activities, The Clothing Closet was forced to shut down during the early days of the pandemic in 2020, though it reopened for a while last fall. 

For the first few months of this year, clothing was provided on an urgent request basis, with people referred by local agencies. A private shopping option launched in late spring, allowing people to book a 30-minute appointment to browse and claim needed clothing.

Though the need didn’t completely disappear while the closet was shut down, Burke believes it dissipated somewhat because people were going out far less. Plus, people typically look ahead to the coming season for clothes, so many were prepared from that perspective.

“There wasn’t the need for a huge wardrobe,” Burke said. “Kids were growing, but a lot of it was during the winter and they already were supplied in the fall to carry through the winter.”

Nonetheless, she said she’s heard from several people who are pleased to learn of the closet’s return.

“There’s such a great community of people here. Everybody knows everybody and the people who come in to shop, they’re looking forward to it,” Burke shared. “So many of our folks coming in have been coming here for years, our volunteers have been here for years. There’s that sense of familiarity and normalcy when you see somebody you haven’t seen for a long time.”

In an effort to maintain space for physical distancing, The Clothing Closet has returned to its core offerings of clothing and linen only.

The hours have also changed. Launching with the return of in-person browsing on Sept. 9, it will be open every Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to noon and again from 5 to 7 p.m.

In addition to seeing service-seekers in person once again, Burke is excited to bring back a full regiment of volunteers, who she referred to as the “heart and soul” of the operation. During down times the number of volunteers fell to about six, but will be back up to 30 or so when in-person browsing is back.

Beginning Sept. 8, The Clothing Closet will once again be accepting donations of in-season, clean, quality clothing and linen for the “store without a cash register” on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., as well as Thursdays from from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the New Life Christian Reformed Church (400 Victoria Rd. N.).