By Sue Moore
The eight-year-old boy wore no socks when he was brought to Kids Closet in Vicksburg. His hand-me-down shoes were far too big, recalled one of the program’s founders, Penny Allen. He had a painful blister on one foot and both feet were dirty.
Allen helped to bandage the blister. She gave him some socks. She bought him a pair of shoes – an exciting event for the child.
Kids Closet, 3129 East V Avenue, is becoming busier, serving more needy kids following the closure of a similar program provided by the women’s ministry at Lake Center Bible Church. A group there, Mothers of Preschoolers–MOPS–have helped out at Kids Closet.
Allen at first relied on a small group of volunteers at the Closet. She now has 42 helpers, many from MOPS. Women in that group were casting around looking to get involved and Allen’s group offered them the greatest opportunity for service, Adrian McClelland, a member of MOPS, said. And they loved that it was local.
The helpers keep the doors open on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Some of the women take home and wash clothes left in the bins behind the Leja House on W. Prairie Street. Others help sort and several are on hand during open hours at the Kids Closet to help children try on shoes and clothing. Everything they offer is free to families, with no qualifications necessary to come and shop.
Because Lakeland Reformed Church has closed its free clothing service, Kids Closet, besides becoming busier, expects to have lots more selections to offer. It is bursting at the seams right now, with 49 children from kindergarten to 12th grade served in one Tuesday night in October. It saw 184 children visit the facility in January of 2015, which shows the huge need that is out there, McClelland said.
Teachers and secretaries in the Vicksburg and Schoolcraft schools are often the ones who let families know about Kids Closet, Allen said. Postcards also go in the Generous Hands backpacks at the beginning of the school year. Word of mouth is a powerful force and now with Lakeland Church closing its service and South County Community Services recommending the Kids Closet, they predict a lot of demand for their services.
Keeping the doors open also costs money, even though the clothes are all donated. Bubs73 has been one of their faithful donors, along with an anonymous donor in Portage who writes a small check every month. They have held rummage sales to help fund the snacks they give to children while they try on clothes, pay for glasses that are needed, and purchase socks.
And sometimes shoes, as for that needy 8-year-old.
Community members who wish to donate gently used clothing may drop it off in the bin in the back of building at any time.