When the youngest of Jill Aschkenasy’s four kids started kindergarten, she wanted to get involved with a charitable organization. “I did two years of research to find a way to contribute to the community in a way that worked for me and my childcare commitments,” says the stay-at-home mom from Haverford. “I didn’t want to collect 200 backpacks and drop them off in the city and say, ‘Look at what a good thing I did,’ when they didn’t need backpacks in the first place.”
What people in crisis do need is good-quality clothing, shoes and accessories. So Aschkenasy tapped into her Main Line network and asked for donations. “I’d send out an email to my network, and within days, my living room would be filled with items,” she says.
Aschkenasy decided to formalize the process, creating Our Closet in the West Philadelphia offices of LIFT, a community-focused charitable organization. “Every Tuesday, we take over the conference room and turn it into a store, complete with sales associates and a checkout counter,” says Aschkenasy. “I wanted to create a store environment, so people in vulnerable situations have pride.”
During this past summer, a second Our Closet opened at West Philadelphia’s People’s Emergency Center. Some 30,000 items have also been given away at 7,000 pop-up shops, each serving 150 people. “I hope it gives them confidence to go into the world and meet the other challenges in their lives,” Aschkenasy says.