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The Clothing Closet keeps on lending a helping hand

The charitable effort in the city's north end is celebrating 20 years
Lisa Burke at the Clothing Closet. Barbara Geernaert for

It’s back to school time and the Clothing Closet in Guelph is ready to lend a helping hand again this year. 

Whether it be a new university student or a family struggling during a difficult time, the Clothing Closet is dedicated to offering ‘good quality clothing from a community that shares by volunteers who care.’

“The Clothing Closet offers free good quality clothing to help people stretch their budgets,” says Lisa Burke, coordinator of the Clothing Closet at New Life Church, “and back to school shopping is always busy and expensive.”

To help ease the expense for those who need it, the Clothing Closet uses generous donations to serve over 1,500 people. 

It’s a place where people can access good, gently used clothing for free, with a request for a donation if able. 

“This is a tough time for some people and also an exciting time but there is a lot of expensive items that are needed so being able to offer quality free clothing is amazing,” Burke says. 

“And this is made possible by the caring volunteers who enable people to access all of this.”

According to Burke, there are about 70 volunteers who dedicate their time to the helpful community cause. 

“I think we are the one of the largest clothing operations in Guelph,” she says.

Burke has been coordinator for the last four years and this year the Clothing Closet celebrates its 20th year. 

“I saw this begin from the ground level up,” Burke says. “It was hosted by the previous church that was here which was Crestwicke Baptist Church. The Clothing Closet was hosted by them in the same building but when they moved, they took the Clothing Closet with them.”

But the neighbourhood was unhappy with the move saying that it made access to the service much more difficult. 

“So, they asked us to take it back and we did 20 years ago,” Burke said. 

New Life Church offers many programs aimed at helping neighbours through ministries which provide clothing, food and support for those near and abroad. 

The church has been worshipping in Guelph for over 30 years. As a Christian Reformed Church, it is one 2,000 churches in North America who share in the same denomination.

New Life Church works in partnership with the Brant Avenue Neighbourhood Group (BNG) which serves the area east of Victoria Road and north of Eramosa Road. 

The BNG provides access to healthy food, education on safe and healthy parenting and after school programming. 

New Life partners with BNG and a variety of programs are offered including: The Run and Read Program at Brant Avenue Public School, Collective Kitchens (a monthly kitchen for the Brant Neighbourhood) and contributions to the BNG Food Pantry.

New Life Church also works in partnership with community organizations to deliver the North End Harvest Market which offers free fruits and vegetables to support individuals and families living in North-East Guelph. 

The Clothing Closet is open every Thursday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. until noon and it is located at the New Life Church at 400 Victoria Rd. N. 

It gratefully accepts donations of in-season quality clothing and footwear which can be dropped off at the church Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m, to 2 p.m. and on Thursdays and Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. 

The Clothing Closet asks that donations are not left outside. 

“Donors don’t get money for this. It’s a question often asked but donating is all part of helping, giving to those who need it most,” Burke said. 

Right now, specific needs include kids and men’s clothing and warmer clothing due to the upcoming fall and winter seasons. 

“We are so lucky to have such a caring, giving community,” Burke says. 

“We’ve built a community here for those who volunteer and for those who donate. We are all here, helping the system.”

The Clothing Closet is always welcome to new volunteers, whether they want to sort and handle inventory or help customers. 

“We invite anyone. For kids, it’s great to build up their high school community hours. For others, it’s socializing and for some, it has helped built up their confidence. One of our volunteers is going back to school because of volunteering here,” Burke said. 

Along with clothing, household items, toys and books, it seems that the Clothing Closet has grown into something much bigger.

It’s about the warm and inviting atmosphere which continues to draw people in. 

“Our volunteers are so welcoming. They really do try to get to know their ‘community friends’ when they come in,” Burke said. 

“People come for clothes yes, but they also come for the conversation and are greeted with an inviting warm atmosphere. It’s all about meeting neighbours and making new friendships in the Clothing Closet and at the Neighbourhood Café we have here too.”

The Neighbourhood Café will be reopening on Sept. 5 and will continue too be available for shoppers from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

It is a warm friendly place to connect with neighbours and new friends while enjoying complimentary coffee, tea and juice and other delectable treats. 

“This has grown. It has become an exchange not only from our volunteers - some are from the church - but many are those who were once shoppers,” Burke said. 

“It’s all about giving back.”

For anyone wishing to volunteer or donate items, e-mail