The Our Closet Volunteer Experience

by Melanie London

There are so many facets to the mission of Our Closet, but one that sometimes gets lost in the big picture of providing clothing with dignity and pride is that Our Closet is almost totally (besides just two full-time staff members and three part-timers) a volunteer-driven organization. There is no way we sort through thousands and thousands of donated items and enable over 6,000 shopping experiences for people in need each year without our incredible volunteers, people who are so giving of their time and dedicated to what we do.

The OC volunteer experience can take on many different looks. Maybe it’s joining us at a pop-up once a month, greeting our shoppers, asking how someone’s day is going, if they need help finding a certain item or size, checking in on what’s happening in their lives, making them feel welcome.

Or it could be spending a couple hours at our warehouse with colleagues going through the donations we receive, making sure they meet our quality standards and getting them to the right spot so we can pack up easily for each pop-up, or provide the right requested items for a crisis or reentry package.

Or maybe it’s getting inspired by young activists like Greta Thunberg or Winter BreeAnne and leading a clothing drive for our most-needed items among your classmates and their families, learning that you too can make a big difference and feeling so proud knowing you helped a person who is struggling get the clothing they need.

That’s the thing with Our Closet – our volunteers are what keep us going, they make Our Closet happen, and they do so in the way that works best for them. I have to say, watching a volunteer connect with a shopper, seeing a student or corporate group in action at our warehouse sorting clothing with their peers or co-workers, getting an email from a student asking what items we need so they can spotlight them in their clothing drive… these are all things that keep us going, both as an organization working to achieve its mission and as people so inspired and grateful for their contribution and commitment.

With Martin Luther King Day of Service having just taken place, I want to thank all our incredible volunteers and reach out to those who would consider joining us – you are welcome, you are needed, and you’ll have a great time, we promise. Just listen to volunteer Jennifer P.: “Not only did I have a wonderful time, but I connected with so many of the shoppers and felt their true happiness at being able to take advantage of such an amazing program. I can’t wait to volunteer again!”

Please join us for our next pop-up shops at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, 23 South 38th Street in University City, from 10am-12pm. They will take place on Thursday, May 26, and Thursday, June 30. You must show proof of vaccination at the door in order to enter and shop, and masks must be worn inside. We look forward to seeing you!

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.

BIG NEWS: Our Closet has been chosen as a finalist for the city’s Community Champions Awards & Grants Challenge. The top vote-getters will receive $20,000 grants! These funds would allow us to reach even more Philadelphians in need, but we need your help. Online voting is from May 18-25, so please register, vote, & share far and wide to help us win: Vote Here!