Origin Story

by Jill Aschkenasy

I have always been a fan of new beginnings, and I am definitely feeling that way as we usher in Fall.

That’s not to say I always welcome moving on, but it is more that I look forward to improving and creating the “2.0” version of the status quo. Finding that sweet spot between protecting what is real and already working, and then tweaking to build improvements seems to be where I really thrive.

I guess it was in this nexus that Our Closet was born. I was a young mother, having just sent the baby of four kids off to kindergarten, and the status quo was pretty darn good. But I needed to find the next step. I needed to build on the current state of affairs. So, I looked to the community and asked how I could help- what could I do to help improve the lives of others around me? This was a year-long Q&A with every single person who would talk to me. And what unfolded was an organic process that ultimately lead to the creation of Our Closet. Each person I spoke with was enthusiastic and filled with their own ideas of what Philadelphia needed to help its citizens living in poverty. But, throughout that year, there was a consistent theme that emerged. I was often called by these professionals with requests. Requests for help with basic needs on behalf of families who were in crisis and felt they had nowhere to turn. But why did they not use the resources that already existed? What was the problem with the status quo and where did it need tweaking? That became the question for the hour (or should I say months?).

So, the “2.0” was created… together with friends and family, we created Our Closet with the simple mission to provide free clothing, at one location, to Philadelphians in need. And that has exploded. Now, eight years later, we have pop-up shops in 18 locations, we distribute over 30,000 items of clothing a year, and we have a staff of four! Our merger with JFCS has provided the backbone we needed to really grow and become a stable force in the fight against poverty in our city.

We are launching this blog with the intention of bringing you all into our world and our mission. They say it takes a village to do something significant- well, you are our village and we want to stay connected. We will share our thoughts, ideas, concerns, successes and disappointments. And we want you to be a part of this so please let us know what you are curious about and what you want to hear.

Let’s launch this and see where it takes us!


UPDATE: We are thrilled to announce the reopening of our pop-up shops on Thursday, September 23 at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral (23 South 38th Street) from 10am-12pm. Due to the prevalence of the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19, you MUST show proof of vaccination to enter the pop-up and remained masked over your mouth and nose the entire time. This is for the safety of our community. All in need are welcome to shop at our pop-up shops, and, as always, shopping will be first-come, first-serve with limits on the amount of people who can shop at one time. More pop-ups for October and November will be announced soon. Stay tuned!

If you or a client of yours is in urgent need of clothing, we have an emergency clothing program for which you or the client may qualify. Please contact us at JFCS' Care Navigation line, 866-532-7669, if you are seeking emergency services, and you will be sent a form to fill out. Please remember this program is for emergencies only.