Despite the rain on Sunday, hundreds of people from near and far made their way to Turlock Seventh-day Adventist Church to browse among mountains of gently used or new children’s clothing during God’s Closet’s first Free Shop Day Event.
“We didn’t expect the turnout once we saw the rain, but it was absolutely successful,” said co-director Mary Eckert. “It was one of the biggest events thus far for all chapters.”
God’s Closet is a ministry of Adventist Community Services that engages Seventh-day Adventist churches throughout North America, providing new and gently used children’s clothes and shoes to local youth in need. The Turlock Chapter of God’s Closet is one of 22 chapters in the country, which includes locations in cities like Dallas, Texas and Raleigh, North Carolina. The organization accepts children’s clothing for all youth, from the age of newborn to 18 years old. They ask that all donated clothes be gently used or new and free from any stains, rips or holes.
“We asked that the donations would be something they would want to put on their own child,” said Eckert.
Eckert said that the inaugural free shop day event, which took place on Sunday, brought in over 650 shoppers, as well as 70 volunteers from the community who spent eight hours setting up the night before the big day.
“It was long day, but it was a lot of fun,” said Eckert.
Each family was charged a small entrance fee ($1) and depending on the number of children in the family, bags were provided to be filled with clothes. Day care in the form of a “Kids’ Corner” was also provided.
“We had all walks of life in there — refugees who didn’t speak any English, foster kids with their foster parents, just people who were down on their luck,” said Eckert. “People were generally helping each other and it was a great opportunity to share clothes between friends. Income didn’t matter.”
Eckert said Home Depot built a free donation box — valued at about $1,600 — for God’s Closet and volunteers from the Turlock location helped kids make festive turkey pots during the free shop day event. Pajama Program, which is an organization that aims to provide stability to children in need with a pajamas and a book, also donated 170 pajamas and books during Sunday’s event.
While the Turlock chapter's first free shop day event wrapped up on Sunday, Eckert said work has already begun for the next event in March. The ministry was also invited by Mayor Gary Soiseth to talk about God’s Closet at an upcoming Turlock City Council meeting in February.
“This kind of event is important because it reminds us all that there are so many people in need,” said Eckert. “Children’s clothing has become so expensive and when you only have $25 in your bank account, you really need support from your community.”