One local ministry has all the components to operate successfully, but a dearth of volunteers has stymied The Clothes Closet & More's ability to reach its full potential in helping meet the needs of people facing emergency situations.
“We help with day-to-day needs, for survival, and a little bit of comfort, and something special, too,” said executive director Mickey Gear of Jacksonville's 314 S. Main St. ministry. “But I need volunteers – our challenge is that there is no constant supply of help, and we need help tremendously.”
Hers is an unpaid position, assisted by a single part-time helper provided through the state's Experienced Works Program, “and I'm hoping to get three more,” she said.
The lack of volunteers and community service workers mean that “no donations have been processed since July 25 because we've had to concentrate on the Back-to-School event in early August,” Gear said.
The Christian-based, non-profit ministry was established in April 2004, and has grown from supplying clothing and household goods to: Providing school clothing and supplies; offering weekend sack lunches for the homeless; operating Cinderella's Closet – filled with prom wear for high school students otherwise unable to purchase clothing; and providing Christmas gifts to families in need. And in recent years, the ministry successfully launched a Thanksgiving basket program, bolstered by the participation of the congregation at People's Church in Jacksonville.
“We also have a full kitchen, and a laundry room and a full shower” for those who need to use them, Gear said. “We will serve anyone – we have no boundaries – whether it's an emergency situation or a long-term need.”
As time draws nearer for schools to begin their new academic year, Gear said the ministry will be focused on giving away school supplies, clothing and – for Jacksonville ISD students – uniforms. At the same time, the annual Coats for Kids campaign is about to launch.
“We are in need of new or gently used coats, that can be dropped off here through the beginning of November,” for the Nov. 2 event at the Old Joe Wright school library, she said.
All these ministries are provided at no cost, and Gear suggested that teachers look into The Clothes Closet as a potential source for free items.
“Come check us out for your crafts needs – we will watch for it and get it for them. They just need to tell us what they need and we will do our best to help,” she said.
Additionally, Gear encouraged folks utilize the Clothes Closet as a thrift store. “All we ask is for a small donation in return,” she said.
Meanwhile, area entities and residents are encouraged to visit the Clothes Closet's Facebook page, which posts lists of immediate needs – such as food to be used in the Sack Lunch program – as well as calls for volunteers and posts upcoming fundraisers (an Aug. 15 bake sale is slated from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday in the lobby of Austin Bank, located at 200 E. Commerce St.).
Focusing on operations to find enough manpower and money to run the ministry effectively, Gear said her dream is to connect with someone who would help create a program that would provide new shoes for kids.
“We have what's donated” – footwear still in good, usable condition – “but wouldn't it be wonderful if we could have that? I remember how excited I was each year to get a new pair of shoes for school. Wouldn't that be awesome if we could do that for the kids here?” she asked.
The Clothes Closet & More is located at 314 S. Main St. in Jacksonville, and operates from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. To learn more, call 903-586-0204.