Community clothes closet expands to new storefront in Lynnville

The Pay It Forward Clothes Closet, a ministry of Heart of Worship Church, has moved to a new location in Lynnville. Previously located at the church, the ministry will now have its own storefront at 403 East Street, next door to Riverside Junction in downtown Lynnville. The new location has already been a blessing to volunteers and shoppers alike.

The need for more space was the main reason for the location change, according to volunteer Denise White-Staecker.

“We had a small clothing closet room set up in our church that was open for awhile on Saturdays, and then we moved to appointment-only due to COVID,” she explained. “In the meantime, we had accumulated TONS of clothes thanks to the generosity of community members. When we ran out of storage space for all of the extra clothes, we realized that we needed a better option.”

The church congregation began talking about the need for more space right before the pandemic hit. They found themselves at a crossroads of wondering if they should discontinue the clothing closet or keep doing what they had been doing.

Then this past winter, the church was approached by a building donor, who recognized the need for a larger store area, which would also minimize the amount of clothes in storage. White-Staecker and her husband, Dennis Staecker, agreed to help organize and facilitate the move to the new space and to get the clothing closet up and running.

On the morning of Apr. 24, during a church work session, the entire clothes closet was moved from the church to the new space in downtown Lynnville.

It didn’t take long at all to realize the new home for the clothes closet was the right choice. Pay It Forward began filling clothing requests immediately and has served about 85 individuals from 34 different families in just over a month’s time.

The perks of the new place are, in White-Staecker’s words, “Amazing!”

“We have so much more room to display clothes,” she said. “We have added several racks to hang infant and some adult clothing. Racks make it so much easier to look through items and find what you need. We also have added more shoe racks, and there is a lot of space for people to move around and shop at their own leisure.”

The volunteers also have a very nice sorting space in the building, so it is easier to sort and process clothes as well as fill requests that come in.  Other perks include having a bathroom and sink available. “We are grateful for the little things and the big things!” White-Staecker said.

In the past, Pay It Forward (PIF) has been a big giveaway event at the end of summer where people from near and far came to the church to “shop” for free clothes, shoes, and school supplies.

“Our last PIF giveaway in 2019 was amazing, and we served over 1,000 people,” White-Staecker said. “It is hard to top that, and our volunteers were starting to feel some burnout from all the work that goes into set-up and tear-down for a two-day event.”

The annual summer event was not held in 2020 due to COVID-19, and it will not be held this year either. Instead, Pay It Forward’s new space gives the ministry the opportunity to be open year-round to meet people’s needs. They can “shop” for free clothes whenever they need them, rather than having to wait for the giveaway event.

Right now, about nine volunteers from Heart of Worship graciously give their time to help keep the clothes closet open. “We are experimenting with hours, and we appreciate all of the volunteers’ flexibility and willingness to be available,” White-Staecker said.

For now, open hours are Monday from 6-7 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Thursday from 9 a.m.-noon, and Saturday from 10 a.m.-noon. Hours may change depending on shopper interest and volunteer availability.

The best way to check Pay It Forward’s open hours is to visit its Facebook page, “Pay It Forward Clothes Closet.” Hours will be updated there, and if a volunteer happens to not be able to work their designated shift and the store has to close at the last minute, those updates will be posted there.

“People can always send us a Facebook message to make sure we are open before coming down,” White-Staecker added.

She encourages everyone to stop in and check out the clothes closet in downtown Lynnville.

“This is a great way to recycle clothes, outfit your kids when they have a growth spurt, or find something ‘new to you’ whenever you need a little shopping therapy,” White-Staecker said.

She noted that very soon, they will have processed everyone’s donations from the last city-wide garage sales, so their shed at Heart of Worship will be open again for donations. They appreciate every-one’s patience during the wait time.

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