By Tia Lynn Ivey
For over 35 years, the Clothes Closet has served families in need throughout Madison and Morgan County by providing free clothes and household items donated from the community. But now, it may be up to the community to help the Clothes Closet, located in downtown Madison directly behind the Morgan County Courthouse.
The building, owned by Morgan County, is in dire need of a new roof—a project expected to cost anywhere from $30,000 to upwards of $50,000. Currently, the several dedicated volunteers at the Clothes Closet have buckets set up to catch leaks from the roof while gaping holes in the roof are visible on the outside and inside of the building. While the county is currently collecting bids for the project from local roof contractors, the county has not yet committed to footing the bill for the new roof replacement.
“It all depends on the cost,” said County Manager Adam Mestres, who noted completed bid packages will be presented to the Morgan County Board of Commissioners for review at the Feb. 18 meeting. “We are looking for community partners to help with the cost, whether it be the city of Madison, the religious community, or others. But the roof is in bad shape will need to be completely replaced.”
Bernice Davis, 91, founded the Clothes Closet over 35 years ago and still volunteers every week, along with other long-time volunteers Dottie Kurtz, Lena Cole, Julia Osaby, and Pat Nesbitt.
“When we moved into this building, I thought ‘Thank God, we will never have to move again,” but here we are,” said Davis as she sorted through donations at the Clothes Closet. “This is just such a convenient location for people to get to when they are in need. You would be surprised how many people we have come through here—the families and the children who are helped by what we give out. People truly need this.”
Dottie Kurtz recounted helping a young a man find a new shirt for a job interview and single mothers with children find school clothes. Kurtz wrote a letter to the county stressing the Clothes Closet’s need for help.
“Right now it’s hard to imagine where we would go and still have the space we need and convenience to those who need us,” wrote Kurtz, who stressed the important work the Clothes Closet does for the local community. “Whether it’s a 4-year-old child who visited us weekly with her grandmother and watching her learn the value of volunteering with us, a homeless man coming in from the cold and being fitted for new socks and shoes, a group from a local church gathering clothes for a family whose home has burned to the ground, a young man seeking a nice shirt and slacks to wear to a job interview or a teacher at the Crossroads Alternative School seeking old shirts that can be repurposed to create their yearly public art project now installed at Farmview Market. Of course everyone coming through our doors doesn’t have such a need but we have been able to help them with clothing, books and small household items so they can have a little extra money saved for their food and shelter.”
Kurtz also stressed the importance of the Clothes Closet’s current location.
“Our central location behind the Courthouse has been vital for those who seek our help and many walk or ride with others to visit us. Over the years these people have become extended family to the few of us who regularly volunteer our time each week,” wrote Kurtz.
Davis is hopeful that the county and community will come together to keep the Clothes Closet open and at the same location.
“We are very hopeful help will come through,” said Davis. “You know, when I started this all those years ago, it was just about helping people in need. That’s what we do here, what we have always done. It makes you feel good to know you have done good for somebody else. We just want to keep on doing that.”
The Clothes Closet is open to public on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The Clothes Closet is located in a small brick building directly behind the Morgan County Courthouse, off East Jefferson Street in Madison.