Proximity Matters

by Jill Aschkenasy

Proximity matters. What do I mean by that? I mean that in order to know someone you have to be physically close to them. You need to share space and spend time together to really connect. I didn’t realize how true this was until I saw it manifest in Our Closet.

Every day we are in different neighborhoods interacting with our shoppers and our community partners, and that is what makes it all work. We are getting to know the people we serve on a deeper level because we meet them where they are, in their local communities, rather than having them have to come to us in one particular place. They are shopping in familiar surroundings, near places and people they know, and that leads to a higher comfort level and a breaking of barriers. We have conversations with our shoppers as they select their items and try them on- and we talk about what matters TO THEM. This model is working because proximity matters. It makes all the difference.

Don’t get me wrong- I understand that you can’t always learn about someone just from sharing the same space, but I certainly believe that without getting proximate and being physically together, it is much more challenging to accomplish that goal. Spending time together breeds conversation, often about important life topics, but more often than not, it is the time spent together about less important topics where deep connection is made. The mindless, silly chatter that happens when we are helping a woman select a dress for church or a young man select an outfit for his first job interview, is when we really get to know our shoppers, learn their struggles and triumphs, and gain insight into what they need and how we can do our jobs better to help them achieve their goals.

As Our Closet morphs and changes, we will tweak our program. But this idea of close and deep connection will always be at the core of our work because, after all, Proximity Matters.

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!