DeKALB – Bonnie Ormond hangs and folds hundreds of shirts and pairs of pants a week. She spends hours organizing clothing, including dresses and coats, and accessories such as purses and shoes.
The clothing she puts away isn’t hers, it’s free for the taking by members of the community.
Ormond is the community services director for Open Closet, a ministry operated by DeKalb Seventh Day Adventist Church, 300 E. Taylor St.
The ministry receives donations of clean clothes, accessories and housewares in good condition from the community. Visitors, called “shoppers,” can visit Open Closet during business hours – 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays and 5 to 7 p.m. Thursdays – to pick out items they want – free of charge.
Open Closet is open to anyone in the community in need of clothing. There is no limit on the number of items they can take, it is only asked that they take what they need.
Ormond spoke to MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton about Open Closet, the need for clothing in the community and how the ministry helps others.
Milton: How did Open Closet begin?
Ormond: Open Closet started back in the early ‘90s. I was not a member of the church at that time. When Open Closet began, it was in the church basement. The church took in donations, sorted clothes and was open one day a week to the public. It started as one of the church’s outreach ministries to the community. There are other ministries, such as food pantries and meetings for addicts of drugs and alcohol, but we chose to do clothing.
Milton: Why start a clothing ministry?
Ormond: I think that it reflects our beliefs as Christians. In order to help people, you have to meet with them, mingle and see what their needs are. Jesus went out to help people, including the sick and hungry. To take care of people’s needs, we have to reach out to them first. I’d say our main goal is to be in the community and help others.
Milton: How did you get involved with Open Closet?
Ormond: I stared attending services at the church in 2011 with my husband. I read about Open Closet and thought that it was such a neat thing that they were doing. I went over on a Thursday evening to see what they did and became a volunteer. When the business I worked for went out of business, I was left unemployed. That’s when I became more involved in the ministry. The gentleman running it at the time worked a full-time job. I started helping more and more and have continued to be involved since.
Milton: What are other ways Open Closet helps people in need?
Ormond: In addition to welcoming shoppers, we also help people that are in need of clothes. For example, we help people who have had fires. If their whole house burned down and they have nothing, we will help. We also help women from Safe Passage. They left with only the clothes on their back, and we help them. People can also come in if they need clothes for a job interview. We have dresses, dress pants and suits.
Milton: What are some non-clothing items available at Open Closet?
Ormond: We have books, shoes, purses, linens and a small amount of housewares, including pots, pans and silverware. A woman that homeschools her five children stopped by for some math workbooks. Another woman stops by for some items to take to the homeless in Chicago.
Milton: Do many Northern Illinois University students visit Open Closet?
Ormond: No, and that’s one area we would like to reach out more to. We worked with a student on a project about community service, but we don’t get a lot of student shoppers. I wish we could reach NIU more, I’m sure students have clothing needs. Even if we could reach them as a church, letting Adventist students on campus know that there is a church in their neighborhood.
Milton: How do volunteers help the ministry?
Ormond: Somebody is usually here every day. Volunteers take the donated items inside and sort and set them out on display. I am here about three times a week. Someone could be here as a full-time job, there’s always that much to do. We are run strictly by volunteers, and any expenses we have are supported by the church. At this time, we are not looking for any additional volunteers.
Milton: Tell me more about donations.
Ormond: We cannot take furniture or electronics, there’s not enough room for that. We ask that donated clothes are clean and in good condition and brought to us in boxes or plastic bags in the two bins in front of our doors. The plastic bags or boxes helps keep the clothes safe and dry from weather. If items have holes, stains or broken zippers, you can put them in the USAgain green and white bins to the side of the building. That’s a separate organization that takes and recycles the clothing left in the bins.