Article by Urban Alliance staff.

Eleven years ago, three women at Wintonbury Church in Bloomfield saw a need in the community and took action together, and a big step of faith, to begin what is now called the Clothes Closet, a monthly community outreach ministry that provides free clothing, shoes and household items to more than 800 people each year. 

Each month, storage bins filled to the brim are marked with sizes to help browsers find what they are looking for, and rows of shoes line the floor, anxiously awaiting their new owners. All of the items made available through the Clothes Closet have been generously donated from individuals and families in the community, and sorted and organized by dedicated volunteers. 

Claire DeJoseph, who has been involved with the Clothes Closet for six years and has lead the ministry at Wintonbury for three years, describes why she enjoys being a part of the ministry, “I am blessed each month when I see how the Clothes Closet provides for those who are in need and gives an opportunity to extend God’s love to others; the love that He has so graciously and freely poured out to us.”

One of the unique strengths of the Clothes Closet is that, for the past five years, it has been operating through a partnership between Wintonbury Church and Citadel of Love, in Hartford, churches that are both Urban Alliance network participants.  

What started as the Clothes Closet being a part of a Love Wins community event through The Hartford Project has now grown into an ongoing collaboration that has not only increased the ministry to provide clothing to more people, but has created the opportunity for relationships to grow.

The Clothes Closet is open on the third Saturday of every month and alternates locations between Wintonbury and Citadel of Love, and also continues to be a part of Love Wins events throughout the summer months. 

“It gives us an opportunity to cross cultural barriers so we can experience God’s love through this ministry,” said Toni King, Director of Outreach and Evangelism at Citadel of Love, “If it weren’t for the Clothes Closet, we wouldn’t be in relationship.”

“Wintonbury has been the anchor for us,” she said, “They have the space, facility and process and we have a quarterly clothing drive. We help sort, help people find sizes, and things of that nature.”

The need continues to grow. “Since 2008 with the economic downturn, we see more people in need,” said King.

“As the economy declined, word spread about this ministry and we have seen an increase in the number of people who come, and from towns beyond Bloomfield and Hartford,” said DeJoseph.

The Clothes Closet relies heavily on volunteers to run successfully. “We depend on volunteers to help organize and set up, sort, staff the events, and clean up. This is a great opportunity for home-school families!” said DeJoseph.

King added, “People will only see the end product of a ministry if they don’t get involved. In order for the Clothes Closet to be available for people in need, we need committed people who are able to work in whatever capacity they can. Even by being there and offering a warm, friendly smile, that can make someone else smile!” 

The Clothes Closet is open from 9:00am-11:00am on the third Saturday of every month (except June and July, when it is offered through The Hartford Project’s Love Wins events), and alternates locations between Wintonbury Church in Bloomfield and Citadel of Love in Hartford. Volunteers are needed to help organize and sort clothing on the Thursday evening and Friday morning immediately preceding each Clothes Closet event. Fall and winter clothing donations (including shoes and boots) for both genders and all ages are also accepted.