CIRCLEVILLE — A new free clothing distribution center is set to open next month as volunteers for The Corner Closet are now working in the building getting ready for their grand opening next month.
The Corner Closet is a project and brainchild of Betty Wolford, a member of the Community United Methodist Church, who, along with volunteers and donations, bought the building at 499 East Franklin Street in Circleville and will be giving out clothing to the community.
In preparation for their opening next month, volunteers will be accepting clothing next week, Jan. 10 through Jan. 14, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
Wolford said things like The Corner Closet existed previously, but went away with time and issues with space.
“It started years ago with a group of ladies called Church Women United,” she said.
“We formed a clothing center and the churches all cooperated, but every facility we had, the landlord sold it, found another use for it or something. We’ve had this need and haven’t fulfilled it. We have the food pantry, but there’s nothing really for clothes. We don’t want to be in competition with Goodwill, that’s not our intent. We wanted some place where items would come in free and go out free.”
Ken Greene, who helped organize the renovations of the building from a plumbing store into a clothing store, said it was all Wolford getting the store started.
“It happened because of the vision of Betty Wolford,” he said.
“It was her idea, her vision and her vision to have a facility like this. She pestered us and drove us crazy until we found one for her. This wouldn’t be here without her.”
Greene said the church has been very fortunate because of donations including an estate that left money to do projects like this. With that money, they were able to purchase the building and do the renovations.
“We’ve had some very generous contributions from people and companies that have helped to make it as nice as it is,” he said.
Greene said the renovations included removing the former store’s racks, creating a sorting area for donations, upgrading the electrical work, improving the floors and putting in a bathroom.
“The main thing was gutting what was in here to store plumbing parts, the racking and shelving weren’t going to work for the clothing store idea,” he said.
Wolford said they’ve looked for a place for two years to have what is now The Corner Closet.
“We wanted a building that is kind of in the center, not way north or way south so it would be convenient for people to walk to,” she said.
“We didn’t want to rent or lease because once you get everything moved in, then they have a buyer and want to sell. So we thought the only way to do it was to buy it.”
“We’ve had a lot of nice donations and a lot of people ask how they can help,” she added. “I think once people get here, they’ll see how we’re doing things and want to help.”
In addition to accepting donations next week, they’ll also continue to accept them during their normal operating hours once they have their grand opening at noon on Feb. 16. They’ll be open on Wednesdays from noon to 6 p.m. and Thursdays from noon to 4 p.m. starting that week.
“We really want to encourage people to drop them off when we’re here and not leave bags outside the door,” Wolford added.
Wolford said they’re not going to look at any income guidelines or limit who can come in the door, but they are going to ask that people only make one trip a month once things are up and running.
“There are no restrictions or requirements to come and that’s the way we want it,” she said.
Wolford said it’s been great to see people volunteer and the amount people are willing to donate. To date, they’ve had 22 volunteers assist on the project and that number will only grow.
“Tuesday was overwhelming,” Wolford said of the first day they accepted donations.
“People brought in clothes by the carloads. It was wonderful. It’s fulfilling and exciting to see the support from the community. For everyone who came in, they said ‘thank you for doing this and we appreciate this.’ It’s a positive program and everyone has been very accepting.”
Greene said The Corner Closet had a “clear need” in the community.
“People recognize that and when they bring things in, they had no idea it would be like this,” he said. “Everyone has been very supportive, positive and encouraging.”
According to Greene, among those who have helped with large donations of money and/or time include Forjak Industrial, Mary Logan So and the company she works for — George J. Igel & Co. — that matched her donation and Larry Rogers who worked on the renovation.
“Larry spent countless hours here, many of them by himself taking down the old racks with very little other physical help; it was a tremendous amount of work,” he said.
Wolford said they’re in the project for the long haul and they’re starting modestly to see how they can best meet the needs of the community.
“If we see we need to do it more and we have the volunteers, we’ll change and expand as we need to,” she said.
“We’ve got a nice facility with other space that down the road, we could develop and do other services. We’ve got a lot of ideas, but we can work on that once we’ve got the clothing store up and running.”