In their second annual community Clothes Closet, Mamaroneck High School students displayed and gave away even more items than they had in 2009 at the CAP Center in Mamaroneck Village. This year’s effort brought together a variety of community groups and volunteers to gather and distribute over 10,000 pieces of gently-used clothing to some 120 local families on Saturday, April 24.
The idea for the free clothing “store” for families to “shop” and take what they need came from high school sophomores Emma Loebel and Rebecca Ward. After helping families choose from donated clothes at Grace Church several years ago, the girls decided to combine their passion for helping people with their love of clothes – and the Clothes Closet service club was born.
The club now has 33 members who have helped with a variety of service projects, including the Mamaroneck Avenue School coat drive and a Furniture Sharehouse furniture drive. But their primary effort is the collection, sorting and display of clothing for selection by Mamaroneck families in need.
Weeks of Preparation
This year’s activity began more than a month ago, when club members arranged for Pink on Palmer, Sweetteez and PDQ to serve as drop-off locations. Increased publicity by local media and other community organizations, including the Chabad of Larchmont and Mamaroneck and Furniture Sharehouse, resulted in the collection of twice the clothing as the year before.
Chauffeured by their parents and Emma’s big brother Bryce, organizers Emma and Rebecca – who are too young to drive — visited the merchants regularly to collect the clothing that had been left there. They made numerous deliveries to Chabad, where Rabbi Mendel Silberstein had invited them to store and sort the clothes.
Some thirty students worked to sort and arrange the clothing, a monumental task. The worst part of the job, explained sophomore Emily Bishop, was the clothes: “going through all the stuff, old underwear and cat hair.” Items in poor condition were set aside; the good items were folded and categorized for the displays.
But going through the clothes was the best part of the job, also. “Although the sorting was tiring, it was totally worth it knowing that these piles and piles of clothing would be given to people who needed them,” said sophomore Charlotte Alimanestianu.
The Big Day
On Saturday, April 24th, the basement of the Mamaroneck CAP Center was transformed by makeshift clotheslines serving as hanging rods for thousands of dollars worth of freshly dry-cleaned clothing and tables piled high with neatly folded clothing sorted into “departments” for men, women and children.
Most of the students who had worked so hard to create and set up the Clothes Closet were not on hand to witness its success. This was out of respect for the privacy of the “shoppers,” explained Emma. Because the Clothes Closet services families in the community, it would be awkward for teens to have their classmates see them taking the free clothes.
Instead, Guisela Marroquin, director of the CAP Center, arranged for Spanish-speaking volunteers to assist. Hommocks students Marysol Hernandez and her mother, Yolanda Hernandez, were among them. “I’m going to help people who need the stuff,” explained Marysol on Friday afternoon. These volunteers were able to help with selection and translation.
Additional day-of-support was provided by club organizers Emma and Rebecca and their parents, including trustee Richard Ward, who is fluent in Spanish and enjoyed distributing large empty bags to families for their clothing selections. MHS juniors Chris Parra and Emma’s brother, Bryce Loebel, also helped with clothing selection and carried heavy bags up the stairs for elderly shoppers.
On Saturday, local families began lining up outside the CAP Center an hour in advance of the 11am opening time. “We had to open the doors more than a half hour early because of the long lines and we were thrilled by the community response” noted Rebecca. In less than four hours, thousands of pieces of clothing went to grateful families. They left with heavy bags, big smiles, and even some unexpected toys.
Although not all of the clothing was given out on Saturday, none of it went to waste. The limited remainder was delivered to Westhab’s Coachman Family Shelter in White Plains and to Darlene Green and her local distribution network on Howard Avenue.
CAP Director Guisela Marroquin thanked the students for their efforts. “These students have done a wonderful job of addressing an unmet need within our community, and we are thrilled that they have brought The Clothes Closet back again this year,” she said.
More photographs of this event can be found at mamkclothescloset.blogspot.com.