Children’s Closet finds new home

Two local organizations dedicated to providing children’s clothing to those in need now operate under the same roof.

The Alpena Baby Pantry, started in 2003 by the Alpena Presque Isle Child Abuse and Neglect Team, found a new home inside the former St. Bernard’s School five years ago. The Children’s Closet, in existence since 1988, moved into the same location earlier this month.

Though both organizations serve children, the Baby Pantry focuses on clothing for children in sizes newborn to 4. Clothing offered by the Children’s Closet goes all the way up to size 16.

“This was an answer to our prayers,” said Doris Puls, coordinator of the Children’s Closet. “It simplifies our lives so much.”

The Children’s Closet was started by former Alpena resident Sheryl Brown as a way to help needy children of migrant workers who came to the area for seasonal work. She sought donations of used children’s clothing within the community and initially operated the program out of her basement. Brown soon expanded her efforts to include teen moms and then broadened the program yet again to encompass many children served by local social service agencies.

“Sheryl got so many donations that she began contacting other agencies to see who else needed clothing,” Puls said.

Ultimately, the program outgrew Brown’s basement and was moved first to the basement of the former InsuranCenter Building and then to space inside the former St. Anne’s Rectory.

The Children’s Closet always holds two major clothing giveaways per year, one in the spring and one in the winter. Parents choose from a wide assortment of clothing, boots, coats and other accessories. Participation in the giveaways is by invitation only, with the invitations coming from local agencies such as District Health Dept. #4, Department of Human Services, Headstart and NEMCSA.

Up until this latest move, all of the clothing for the two giveaways was packed up and transported to the Immanuel Lutheran School gymnasium. Now, with the new home at St. Bernard’s, the giveaways can take place at the same location where the clothing is donated, then sorted and stored.

“This will better serve us having it all in one place,” Puls said.

In between the giveaways, if any of the local agencies identify someone in need, arrangements are made to work with Children’s Closet to provide the necessary clothing items.

Puls inherited the responsibility for the program after Brown and her family relocated downstate. She said the organization is pleased with the opportunity to join the Baby Pantry at St. Bernard’s.

“I’m very grateful that St. Bernard’s has allowed us to use this space,” Puls said. “It works perfectly to be able to coordinate with the Baby Pantry.”

While the Baby Pantry resources are located on the first floor, the Children’s Closet is on the second level of the building. Donations of clothing for either organization can be dropped off at the Lockwood Street entrance, where the porch will be unlocked from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The two organizations will then work together in dividing up the clothing where it needs to go. Puls noted that donations of clothing to her organization have been down in the last year or so.

Children’s Closet does not hold any fundraisers but relies on the generosity of the community to make it work. Hunter’s Harvest supports the cause each year. Monetary donations also have come from Retired Old Men Eating Out, several area churches and individuals. Donations are used mainly to purchase new underwear and socks.

Puls also said Children’s Closet can always use volunteer help with sorting clothing. Anyone interested is welcome Thursdays at 10 a.m.