Haverford resident Jill Aschkenasy received the LIFT Community Award last week for founding “Our Closet”, a pop-up shop for free, high-quality clothing in West Philadelphia. The award comes from LIFT-Philadelphia, whose mission is to help members achieve enduring economic stability and well-being. Also honored were Drexel President Jonathan Fry and LIFT member Tyrone McLaurin.
Aschkenasy was recognized for Our Closet’s innovative approach. Unlike most clothing charities, her organization is run similar to a store. “It’s the same as if you were shopping at the GAP,” she says. Volunteers greet visitors and assist them in finding and selecting clothes. “They walk out with a lot of pride, even though they took free items.” Since its founding in 2011, Our Closet has distributed approximately 45,000 pieces of clothing to 10,000 visitors.
Aschkenasy credits two other organizations with boosting Our Closet’s success. The first is LIFT, whose Executive Director, Josh Romalis, offered advice and now provides the space where Our Closet operates. The other is Beth David Reform Congregation, where Aschkenasy and her family are members. Beth David collects clothing donations and many of Our Closet’s volunteers are Beth David members, including two of three founding board members, Veenita Bleznak and Michele Rubenstein.
Aschkenasy plans to expand Our Closet in the next few months to offer clothing in other areas of the city. A donation event is planned in Haverford on May 15-19. People who donate clothing will receive a discount card to be used at local businesses. For more information see www.ourclosetpa.org.