The Clothes Closet is a mission of Capitol Hill Lutheran Church and is located not in a distant land, but in the southeast corner of our 144-year old church at 511 Des Moines St. in Des Moines.
“I needed clothes and you clothed me,” Jesus said. It began in 1989 when some women at the church saw a need to provide free clothing to children in our community. They wrote letters to 30 Lutheran churches in the city, inviting them to help by referring those in need, donating clothing and providing volunteers to operate the Clothes Closet. The churches responding became the Des Moines Lutheran Coalition, working in cooperation with the Clothes Closet to provide needed donations of clothing and volunteers to help with the work.
Through the years we have welcomed refugees from Latvia, Vietnam, Liberia and the Sudan. Our church members come from five continents and speak 23 different languages. The needs of the homeless, the unemployed, the underemployed, the mentally ill, new immigrants and prisoners returning to our community have continued to increase. Word of mouth to their friends and relatives bring many in our door.
Families are able to visit the Clothes Closet one time each month. The clothes and household items they receive are free. We try to ensure that the families we serve receive clothes they can wear with pride to school, to church, to work or to apply for work. We sort through all the donations we receive to ensure the clothing and other items are clean, gently used and without stains and tears. Volunteers often take wearable but soiled winter coats home to wash. We try to make sure each child receives at least one book and one toy to take home.
As 2013 draws to an end, what has not changed is the number of people who need the free clothes and household items we provide. By far, the greatest need is for clean underwear, socks and blankets. The homeless also need warm clothes, blankets or sleeping bags and backpacks to keep their few possessions safe.
Last year, we had a total of 1,419 visits from clients (up from 1,321 in 2011), helping 557 households with 1,755 people in these households, 876 of which were children.
There is always a need for volunteers. We now have about 10 dedicated volunteers. St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in West Des Moines provides volunteers on the first Saturday of each month to provide a brief respite to our own volunteers who not only keep the Clothes Closet open on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings, but also work when we are closed to sort donations.
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