What started out as a whim has turned into an inspirational community lifeline for families in need.
When Port Orchard Church member Claudia Arends asked her Facebook friends in October 2015 what they thought about the idea of a free clothing outlet for struggling families, she didn't know what to expect.
Almost two years later, Kids Kloset has partnered with Helpline, a community resource center that regularly refers people to them, a nearby hospital and others in the community. It is a place for cash-strapped clients to obtain clothing for their loved ones. Sizes range from newborn to adult.
"The response was so overwhelming," says Arends, who co-directs Kids Kloset with Yvonne Neal. Kris Wilson and Penni Lowdon also help. No sooner did Arends pose the question on Facebook than the donations started pouring in.
"Kids Kloset has been really helpful," wrote Dora Dry on the Kids Kloset Facebook page. "They give you stuff for your kids, and whatever your kids can't use anymore you just give back to help others. They are so wonderful."
After taking two months to organize and secure space in the Port Orchard Church, Kids Kloset opened in December 2015. They started by offering their services two Thursdays a month.
"We were so busy those two days," Arends recalls. "We were helping 25–30 families in a three- to four-hour period."
Since February 2017, Kids Kloset has expanded its hours to be opened every Thursday from noon to 3 p.m.
"The donations are overflowing from the community of recycled clothes, shoes, cribs, bassinets and toys," Arends says.
Neal adds, "Anything that has something to do with a child we accept."
The lack of price tags on the clothing at Kids Kloset catches many people off guard, Neal says. However, clients must sign a paper that they won't sell, trade or barter anything they receive.
"This is all done by the kindness of our hearts," Neal says. "We get joy out of doing this. ... It's fun. It really is."
Sherri Kay wrote on the Kids Kloset Facebook page how much she appreciates everyone involved in it: "The people who run it are so kind and welcoming."
"I love that I can bring my girls' outgrown clothes here and not have to worry about them turning a profit from it," Kay wrote.
Arends and Neal estimate they volunteer about 15–20 hours weekly to make Kids Kloset successful. The pair wash and clean donated items at their home.
"There's weeks we get 15–20 bags of donations, and I don't want people to think we're complaining. We're not," Arends says. "We're so happy to get all the donations to do this. People say they're glad to donate because it's going to go to someone who really needs it and won't have to pay for it."
In addition to the clothing, Arends says Kids Kloset patrons receive church literature for both parents and children, prayer for burdens on their heart, as well as information about other charitable organizations in the community. They can also indicate whether they'd like to learn more about the church if they check a box on a form they fill out. If they're interested, that information is passed on to Dustin Serns, Port Orchard Church pastor, who follows up each inquiry.
Following Jesus' example cited in Matt. 25:3, " needed clothes and you clothed me," Serns says Kids Kloset has really connected to people in the community as people can receive help and contribute to helping others.
He also said church members have been excited to support the ministry. Some members started a weekly small group that knits items for Kids Kloset.
"God is using Kids Kloset to transform families in our community on a weekly basis," Serns says. "It is a place where they can not only receive help but hope. As a church, we are excited to come alongside these families in our community to show sympathy for them, minister to their needs … and invite them to follow Jesus."
or information about Kids Kloset, call 360-981-4810, or visit the Kids Kloset Facebook page.
This article was first published in the September 2017 edition of the North Pacific Union Gleaner