Helping Ocean City residents one piece of clothing at a time.
Text and photos by Paige Benedetto
Life is not always in our favor, everybody experiences hard times, and sometimes people need help. The actions of those who chip in are not taken for granted and are not forgotten. In Ocean City, there is a group of people who volunteer their time with the sole purpose of aiding others in the community when they are in need. Their service and dedication is remarkable, and these volunteers consistently act on their intention to help others.
“Our mission is to clothe the poor of Ocean City,” said Anne Gallagher, a volunteer and one of three coordinators running Clothes Closet.
The goal of this little building at 555 West Avenue is that simple. But the task of running Clothes Closet is anything but. Anne, Rissa Trofa, and Anita Keough are the three main coordinators working at Clothes Closet. Anne handles more of the behind-the-scenes work, while Rissa will typically be seen on the floor and at the front of the shop. Anita handles all of the volunteers. Clothes Closet is a non-profit organization run 100 percent by people donating their time to help the customers in need of clothing. Every piece of clothing or linen in the store comes from a donation and is free for anybody living in Ocean City.
“As long as you live in Ocean City you are able to come to Clothes Closet. You need to have a proof of residency and that can be a piece of mail with your name and residence on it. Then you are allowed to come and take clothes. You are allowed to take 10 adult items and eight children items and you are allowed to come twice a month,” Rissa explained.
Clothes Closet is a city building. Ocean City built Clothes Closet their current building and takes care of the upkeep, keeping it comfortable, welcoming, and private for the people in need.
While mostly all of the volunteers come from churches within Ocean City (Clothes Closet is run by the Ecumenical Council), they are always looking for more volunteers.
“No matter what your domination is you can volunteer,” Anne said.
The people who are willing to give their time and love to Clothes Closet is one of the reasons it’s able to run so smoothly and benefit the city so well.
Volunteer Regina Ralston takes care of all of the signs you see posted in Clothes Closet. Karen Holder and her daughters come in over the weekend, when the shop is closed, and make sure everything is in order and organized for Monday morning at 10am when they open up again.
Clothes Closet even donates to other countries in need when there is devastation. Volunteers Carol and Will Evans take the clothes from Clothes Closet to the Rescue Mission when there is a need. This can be a huge help when a country is suffering from a natural disaster and everybody has lost everything.
Clothes Closet has articles of clothing for every season, and as the weather changes the garments in the store change as well. Any donation is always welcome.
“The largest donation of the year comes from the Ocean City Board of Relators. They collect winter coats and clothing,” Anne said. “We also take and receive monetary donations from residents and with that money we buy school bags, underwear, socks and rain boots for the children going back to school. We make sure every child has these things when they return to school,” Anne said.
Anne and Rissa both say Clothes Closet is their passion. They donate their time because they truly want to help. Rissa wishes she could have given her younger self one piece of advice after what she has learned from working at Clothes Closet.
“I would tell myself to find something that you love to do,” Rissa said.
She is grateful to now have found Clothes Closet.
“I feel blessed in my life and I want to give back to my community,” Rissa said. “I enjoy working with other people who are like minded and who want to give back,” she said.
Clothes Closet has so many volunteers that you only need to volunteer once a month, but you are allowed to volunteer as often as you want.
Volunteering strengthens communities and brings people together. Giving back helps people to learn about themselves while benefitting people in need and creating a better community for everybody living there.
After spending time with Anne, Rissa, and some of the other volunteers from Clothes Closet, I was reminded of a famous quote by the actor Denzel Washington – “At the end of the day, it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished. It’s about what you’ve done with those accomplishments. It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.”