A congregation in Guelph, Ont., has been providing hope and dignity to members of the community around them for 20 years—in the form of free, gently used quality clothing.
New Life Christian Reformed Church has run the Clothing Closet since 1999, when they acquired the church building and the ministry from Crestwicke Baptist Church. At events in May and June, church members and members of the community celebrated the anniversary with cake and an informal dinner.
The ministry has grown over the 20 years from a small service meeting clothing needs of its immediate neighbors to one with more than 60 volunteers serving all of Guelph and some adjacent cities. Jane Pyper has been a volunteer with the ministry since 1999.
“People who come to access the Clothing Closet find non-judgmental and friendly volunteers who do their best to make it a safe, friendly, and welcoming place,” Pyper said.
Almost half of the volunteers are members of New Life CRC; the remainder are community members, some of whom used the Clothing Closet prior to volunteering. Some serve one or two times a week, while others volunteer monthly.
“We have become a close-knit group, which feels like a family,” Pyper said.
The ministry has one paid position, part-time coordinator Lisa Burke, employed by the church. Clothing is donated to the ministry, and the Closet is housed in the church, so expenses are low. Expenses that do arise are covered by donations from supporters. Clothing is free, allowing families and individuals to save funds for other essentials in the budget.
“That’s why they come,” said Burke. “What they’ve found along the way is a wonderfully warm, welcoming community.”
Clothing Closet clients register as members with their name and, if they wish, a few details about their family size and income. There are more than 900 registered members, who ‘shop’ for over 1600 family members.
In May 2017, the church opened The Neighbourhood Café in the lobby next to the Clothing Closet to further extend hospitality and foster relationships. The Café offers complimentary tea, coffee, and treats on one of the two mornings the Closet is open. Looking forward, deacons at New Life CRC are exploring other services or programs the church can offer to people already associated with the Clothing Closet.