by Melanie London
It’s been a while since our last post. We’ve been so busy continuing to pivot, adapt, and all those other 2020/early 2021-appropriate words, so that we can keep fulfilling our mission of providing free, clean, quality clothing to those in need. What we of course didn’t anticipate was that the pandemic would shut down our pop-ups for so long, and that the need around the city would increase so much. There are so many people out of work, experiencing food and housing insecurity, reentering their communities, or recovering from illness with different clothing and size needs.
So as we’re continuing our emergency clothing delivery program, we’ve also collaborated with other programs at JFCS to launch “JFCS In Your Neighborhood,” a mobile service providing a safe, distanced mini-pop up, fresh and healthy food distribution, and a social worker to help people access benefits and further needed services.
In Your Neighborhood (IYN) partners with host sites to reach their populations, making both internal and external collaboration the centerpiece of this model. This “teamwork makes the dream work” approach has allowed us to connect with new clients and make sure they have access to basic needs like food and clothing, with the dignity and respect for which Our Closet, and JFCS, is known.
Our first In Your Neighborhood voyage took place at CHOP Karabots, one of our pop-up sites, in late October. We served 16 families (61 total people) with 232 items of clothing, shoes, and accessories, as well as packages of fresh produce and dry goods, and access to polling site information, as the election was fast approaching.
About a month later, we visited Oak Street Health in the northeast where we served mostly older adults living own their own: 30 clients with 140 items. In addition to the Our Closet pop-up shop experience, attendees received turkeys and pies for Thanksgiving, grocery gift cards, and access to benefits or services they may need through a JFCS social worker.
In Your Neighborhood has provided that immediate connection that we miss so much having our pop-ups temporarily closed. It feels wonderful to see people in person, and work together to provide ways to meet their needs, all in a mask-required, spaced out, limited fashion so we know we’ll all, clients and staff, stay safe.
There are more IYN voyages planned for March (once the COVID surge lessens and the winter weather warms up), and on into the spring and summer, so keep a lookout for the In Your Neighborhood bus all around Philadelphia, throughout this pandemic and beyond.
Stay safe, stay home, mask up, take care, and… HAPPY NEW YEAR! Here’s to a much better 2021 for us all!