Local nonprofit Clothes Closet says heartfelt farewell to community

By Jessica Vaughn
Posted 11/12/20

FOLEY - The Clothes Closet was a place where you could donate good, used clothing for a purpose. Once donated, two things could happen with those items: they would sell and the money would be given …

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Local nonprofit Clothes Closet says heartfelt farewell to community


FOLEY - The Clothes Closet was a place where you could donate good, used clothing for a purpose. Once donated, two things could happen with those items: they would sell and the money would be given to numerous local charities, or they would be given for free to community members in need. Since 1977, that was the goal of the local nonprofit - to give back to as many as possible.

Like so many others, The Clothes Closet felt the effects of COVID-19 in March when they shut their doors. On July 6, the nonprofit reopened, taking extra precautions to protect volunteers and customers from COVID. At risk volunteers were encouraged to only come if they felt safe, while other volunteers took extra shifts to run the store.

Then tragedy struck on Sept. 16 when Hurricane Sally came on land. Water broke through and rushed the storefront, destroying the interior of the building and precious donated items.

“The building was going to have to be cleared out,” said current President of the Clothes Closet Sylvia Womack. “We worked with New Life in Christ Church to donate all our salvageable merchandise to them. They were able to give it away to people who were in need of clothes, shoes, etc.”

After the losses from the pandemic and the destruction of Sally, the difficult decision has been reached to close The Clothes Closet. The organization is in the process of dissolving the Corporation. Any remaining funds will be donated to charities in Baldwin County.

“It was such a sad day for all of us who have worked so hard to keep this store open and to help so many in our area,” Womack said. “Many tears were shed. We will be placing a commemorative brick in Heritage Park in Foley in honor of all of those who served with The Clothes Closet. We want to thank everyone who served and helped, the volunteers and the donors who gave us items to help us keep the store stocked over these 43 years.”

Profits made from The Clothes Closet have been donated to multiple charities, including Ecumenical Ministries, Family Promise, Alabama Sheriff Boys Ranch, Habitat For Humanity, The Lighthouse, Care House, Christian Social Services, Baldwin DHR, ARC Baldwin County, Magnolia Room, Magnolia House, Saving Grace For Women, Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, Baldwin County Heritage Museum, and more.

The Clothes Closet was founded in 1977 by Church Women United. Carol Cleverdon, who pitched the idea to her fellows, served as the store’s first manager. While volunteering with the local school, Cleverdon saw many children with inadequate clothing. She noticed children missing school due to the lack of clean clothes to wear, living in homes without running water. She watched as her friends, with nothing left to do with their children’s old but good quality clothes threw them away or burned them. This drove her desire to help those in need in the community.

While a common practice today, recycling was only just getting large-scale attention in the 70s. Cleverdon found stores selling recycled clothing while traveling, something she wouldn’t soon forget. She became Ecumenical Action for Church Women United, an international organization of church women from various denominations in South Baldwin County. These women worshiped together while working to improve conditions within the community.

It was to this group that Cleverdon pitched her idea of bringing a location where people could recycle clothing to the area. She found encouragement, support, and offerings to help. A small group was formed to ask people for donations of used clothes, which they even washed and repaired themselves during the beginning.

It didn’t take long before the group was receiving more donations than they could have imagined. They found a location on West Laurel Street in Foley and opened the first location, with Cleverdon as the first manager.

The Clothes Closet was made a nonprofit organization on its own in 2007, and the store moved to its larger location on West Berry Street.

People who helped begin the Clothes Closet were Cleverdon, Edna Sinclair, Kitty Cloud, Mary Manring, and Lynn Aspray. Other members included Eleanor Jones, Fern Johnson, Mary Showers, Cleo Wheaton, Anne Barber, Anne Smith, and Dorothy Decker. Other early managers were Anne Barber and Eunice Roberts.