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. The charitable organization, located in at 195 East Jefferson Street in Downtown Madison, was in danger of closing down due to a deteriorating building owned by Morgan County government. But the Clothes Closet will stay put, thanks to a deal between Morgan County government and the Morgan County Baptist Association, which oversees the Clothes Closet.
The Morgan County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a lease agreement with the Clothes Closet, ensuring the 35-plus-year charity remains open in the same location. The Morgan County Baptist Association is leasing the building from the county at no cost and will make the necessary repairs to replace the roof and bring the building up to code. The Baptist Association/Clothes Closet will also be responsible for all utility costs.
County Manager Adam Mestres worked with the Clothes Closet to find a solution for the long-time charitable organization to remain open.
“This is a solution all parties involved came up with,” said Mestres. “The Clothes Closet will continue to be a great asset for our community. The Clothes Closet gives clothes and home items of all sorts to people in need in our community at no cost, and we are glad such an organization exists in Morgan County.”
After looking for other solutions, the county determined they could not fund the roof repair, which would cost about $80,000.
“A timeline hasn’t been announced yet, but bring the building up to all safety codes,” said Mestres.
According to the county lease, “[the Baptist Association] is coming to make the necessary repairs to the roof. And they will continue to function after those repairs will be made.”
The Clothes Closet has been plagued with leaks in the roof, prompting the dedicated volunteers to place buckets all around the facility to prevent the premises from flooding.
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 in an earlier interview. But Davis’ trepidation of moving the charity have been quelled and the Clothes Closet will continue operating at the same place it has for years. “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.”
Volunteer Dottie Kurtz explained to county leaders the importance of the Clothes Closet and its current location in a letter.
“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. “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.”
Davis and the volunteers have only ever wanted to continue helping the community and now they will be able to do just that.
““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,” said Davis.
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.