Giving A Hand Up, One Garment At A Time
What does someone do when they are out of work and the one thing that stands between them and a construction job is a pair of work boots that they can’t afford? What if someone finally gets hired for a great job, but realizes they only have one appropriate outfit for the workplace? Who does a mother turn to when her child has outgrown their school clothes and she can’t afford to replace them?
Many Chandler residents turn to Clothes Cabin. Clothes Cabin and Friends Resale Boutique are operated by One Small Step, Inc., a small nonprofit organization that provides free clothing and household linens to people in need. Clothes Cabin also offers their homeless clients free weekly laundry service, mailboxes and small storage lockers for their important items.
“Our vision is that no person or family within our service area lacks the clothing they need to secure employment, maintain a healthy and hygienic life and be socially accepted,” says Kris Walters, the community relations coordinator for One Small Step.
FRIENDS RESALE BOUTIQUE
Clothes Cabin currently serves 2,000 families and depends heavily on clothing donations, as well as monetary ones. Next to Clothes Cabin is the Friends Resale Boutique, a shop set up to help raise funds for the program.
“Shop at the boutique and 100 percent of the earnings go directly back to Clothes Cabin,” says Shannon Skarphol, executive director.
The boutique sells both resale and new items, everything from household goods to jewelry. They even sell items made by local artists. The funding helps purchase items such as new socks, undergarments and kids clothes. They also purchase new boots for their Back to Work program.
“One of our biggest challenges is getting enough donations of kid’s clothing,” says Walters. “About 60 percent of our clients are kids and we are in perpetual need of clothing for them.”
Walters has observed that women tend to donate their closet’s overflow the most, so typically they have more than enough women’s clothing. Men tend to hang on to theirs the longest, so men’s clothing is appreciated.
RUNNING THE CABIN
“One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Many hands make light work,’ and it is so true,” says Walters. “We rely so much on our community, starting with all the volunteers that staff both Clothes Cabin and Friends Resale Boutique, and get donations to stock both sides as well. I love volunteering and working for such a worthy cause.”
Skarphol is employed part-time as the executive director and the agency contracts with Walters and Maxine Becker for community relations and grant writing. Walters also volunteers at Friends Resale Boutique. There are about 50 volunteers that make it possible for them to serve the community at the level they do.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE
There are many ways to support Clothes Cabin without making a weekly commitment.
“One way to help is to become an ambassador for our organization,” says Walters. “That could be as simple as talking about us at a local club, meeting or on Facebook.”
Volunteers pick up donations for donors who can’t make the drop-off personally. Others serve as spotters who look for, then notify them, of local sales and bargains on items they need to purchase.
Younger children who want to get involved can conduct clothing, shoe or hygiene kit items drives. One clever women’s club hosted a linen shower and collected a room full of sheets, towels, blankets, comforter sets and pillows for the program.
A SIMPLE THING
During registration, clients are asked for their photo ID and given a clothing allowance sheet. They may request clothing once every three months and the amount they are allowed depends both on the number of people in their immediate family and clothing availability. They may also ask for household linens at this time.
Skarphol was working up front with clients one day and she was going over the allowance sheet with a mom who had her daughter with her. The mom turned to her daughter and asked her if she needed anything and the daughter asked for a blanket. Skarphol went to the back to search for one, but was worried because she knew they were low on reserves. Thankfully, she found one fluffy pink blanket on the shelf.
“I was really touched by that mom who put her daughter first. And her daughter was so happy to have such a simple thing,” says Skarphol.
A new blanket, a gently used suit, a pair of strong work boots; these things may seem like simple things, but they can truly be life changing for those in need.
Learn more about volunteering, donating or shopping at Clothes Cabin or Friends Resale Boutique at ClothesCabin.org.