Positive Change from Even the Worst of Circumstances

by Jill Aschkenasy

One of our first blog posts was about how we envision “Our Closet 2.0.” Back in early 2019, before the pandemic was our reality, we were thinking that as OC began our tenth year, we should begin to imagine what the next ten years would look like.

Well, we had no idea how forward thinking we actually were, and once COVID-19 changed the world and the way we interact with one another, we were forced to make an immediate decision about a new version of Our Closet. Recognizing that our community needed us more than ever but frustrated that we could not safely host pop-up shops, we quickly pivoted to a crisis package model. We partnered with over 50 social service agencies in Philadelphia, and internally with JFCS, to create individually tailored packages of clothing for those in need.

In the moment, it was just a quick idea to bridge the gap while we all had to hunker down, stay at home, and be safe. We had no idea that this moment in time would actually really inform our idea of Our Closet 2.0.

We are now looking at our pop-up shop model and all the data we have collected, and we now see that it is quite possible that our pre-COVID model may not have been the most effective and efficient. Yes, of course we were doing crucial work meeting the basic need of clothing for those that needed it. But we now realize we could be working even better, and more importantly, even smarter.

We want to reach the most vulnerable and those most in need, and that may mean reducing the monthly number of our pop-up shops once we reopen, while maintaining our crisis package program. Of course, this also means internal restructuring and figuring out how to serve each individual in the best way possible, while maintaining our original ten-year-old mission of delivering our clothing with dignity and working to instill confidence in our shoppers.

I guess this is a long way of saying what I think most of us are feeling. Everything that happened to us all during the COVID pandemic, and even now as we hopefully approach a world with herd immunity, will forever change the way we think about each other, our world, and our work. Here at OC, we take that challenge quite seriously, and we are spending a tremendous amount of time thinking, talking, and brainstorming about ways to take what we learned over this past horrific year, and have this new knowledge positively effect change in our program, ultimately delivering the same quality clothing in a more effective and efficient way.

Stay tuned for our continued thoughts on this, and as always, we welcome yours!

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.