Learn about Our Closet – Powered by JFCS’ Mission, History, Team and Testimonials.
Our Closet – Powered by JFCS is a volunteer-driven program with the goal of providing the basic need of clothing to vulnerable individuals and their families throughout the Greater Philadelphia region. We distribute clothing free of charge by operating “pop-up shops” as well as providing emergency response packages to community members in crisis. There are no eligibility requirements to receive clothing. Our goal is to meet a basic need for community members so that they can better focus on handling other stressors in their lives, such as securing a steady source of income or finding permanent housing solutions, with confidence.
Our Closet’s approach is two-pronged; we rely heavily on the support of volunteers to sustain our operations. As volunteer-driven program, we strive to engage the larger community through education and exposure, and hope to inspire a sense of civic duty amongst our dedicated volunteer base. It is our belief that the Our Closet experience will motivate our volunteers to become leaders and influencers in the anti-poverty space.
Jill Aschkenasy founded Our Closet in 2011 in response to a crisis she witnessed that year, a Philadelphia family’s house was destroyed by fire, and they were in need of the most basic items to regain stability during an undoubtedly frightening and stressful time. Hearing this, Jill reached out to her network to help this family, and the response she received was overwhelming. Donations poured in from friends, family members, and neighbors to help this unknown family rebuild their home. Jill founded Our Closet to continue to provide support to the many families and individuals whose stories remain untold.
In 2011, Jill started Our Closet with one pop-up location. That year, Our Closet distributed approximately 15 bags of clothing and worked with 20 volunteers.
Since its inception in 2011, Our Closet has seen an increasing need from the Philadelphia community for its services. What started off as one person and one location in 2011 grew through the years to two full-time staff people and more and more pop-up shop locations across the city, enabling Our Closet to serve more of those in need.
In 2016, Our Closet began exploring the possibility of merging with a larger entity in response to the organization’s rapid growth and reached out to JFCS.
The merge with Our Closet presented JFCS with an opportunity to offer programming that is at the very core of the JFCS mission, to support our community during the times they need it most with a basic human need. JFCS, founded in 1855, is a well-established Philadelphia nonprofit operating in four locations throughout the region, and provides Our Closet with the necessary support and infrastructure to sustain its expansion to reach more in need while growing in a thoughtful and strategic direction. The merger was finalized in November 2016.
Now, in 2020, Our Closet – Powered by JFCS operates 18 pop-up shops throughout the city.
Founder & Advisory Board Chair
Jill Aschkenasy founded Our Closet in 2011 after seeing a need for easily accessible services providing clothing to community members in need. She is a graduate of University of Wisconsin at Madison and Benjamin Cardozo School of Law. Prior to her role with Our Closet, she was an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan. Her leadership has taken Our Closet from simply an idea to a constantly expanding successful network of clothing pop up shops throughout the city.
Melanie London oversees Our Closet’s programming and operations, and works with the OC team to develop a strategic plan for growing the organization. A veteran of non-profits, Melanie is passionate about Our Closet’s mission of providing the basic need of clothing to vulnerable Philadelphians in a warm, welcoming and dignified manner. She previously served as Director of Community Partnerships at Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, and prior to that worked in marketing and communications in New York City, in the non-profit, digital media and entertainment fields.
Associate Program Director
Shauna Ekezie joined the Our Closet team due to her passion to serve members of the community needing assistance. With a background in fashion design, Shauna found purpose in providing the basic need of clothing to individuals and their families. Prior to joining Our Closet, she was a coordinator for two similar dressing programs, Career Wardrobe, and the Second Time Around store, supplying professional attire for those seeking employment and casual clothing for those experiencing vulnerable situations.
Ricki Gever Eisenstein joined the Our Closet team as Program Coordinator, supporting the overall operations of Our Closet and managing the warehouse activities. Ricki is passionate about serving populations in need, particularly in her hometown of Philadelphia. Ricki earned her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania where she focused her research on service learning and urban community-university partnerships. Before joining Our Closet, Ricki ran a cafe and community space in Fairmount Park that she built from a crumbling park house back in 2010. She also served as a consultant for a small national non-profit that brought college volunteers together with long term pediatric patients. Ricki is a proud Board member of the Pig Iron Theatre Company and she sits on the Advisory Board for the Philadelphia chapter of C-CAP (Careers for Culinary Arts Program).
Emily Hollis is based at Our Closet’s warehouse, ensuring that each pop up shop is stocked with a selection of high quality clothing to meet our shoppers’ needs, and working with the many volunteers who help us sort and organize donations. Long committed to helping others through her work in the non-profit field, she appreciates the opportunity to work to directly benefit Philadelphians in need. Emily comes to Our Closet with a background in volunteer management, museums and arts education.