God's Closet: Adapting to the Pandemic
Heather Grasby opened a chapter of God’s Closet in Thomasville, NC, in 2017. The organization provides the community with like-new clothing for kids from age 0-18. Typically the God’s Closet chapter in Thomasville has hosted a God’s Closet “shop day” with up to 200 people attending every three to four months. People can come and browse the clothes and find what they need. “Before Covid, it was much easier to get a huge turnout for help, including students from Tri-City Academy, and church members could help in areas that they felt excited about,” said Grasby. But with the coronavirus restrictions, Grasby and her team had to get creative for their summer event.
“I really wanted to be able to meet the physical needs of the community, especially during this time,” said Grasby. People were asked to sign up for a time slot with up to eight shoppers to enter the building and look for clothes; boys in one area, and girls in another. She also extended the event from one day to a three-week period. “To get the word out I advertised on Facebook and mom groups and yard sale pages,” said Grasby. The turnout from this social-distancing-friendly version of God’s Closet was equal to if not more than pre-covid events, and included some added blessings.
“We even had some help from the outside community; the town’s 8-year-old ‘Miss Thomasville’ and her mother heard about our event and donated a bunch of food, which we were able to give to those in need,” said Grasby.
God’s Closet in Thomasville is working hard to meet the spiritual needs of the community as well. Every person who comes in to get clothes also receives a Steps to Christ or similar Christian literature. Grasby even witnessed a volunteer giving a Bible away to someone who was interested in learning more about God.
“I liked the staggered event we did this year, because less people at a time means more meaningful conversations,” said Grasby. “It’s almost hard for me to want to go back to the way we did it before.”
God’s Closet in Mills River, NC, also came up with a creative alternative in August. They decided to hold two drive-through shopping days for their God’s Closet shoppers. On their previous shop days they’ve had approximately 275-300 shoppers, and have offered child care. When the pandemic hit, they knew their facility would not offer the space needed to social-distance shop.
With so many clothes to go through, church members and community volunteers first came together in June and July for sort days. If those volunteers were also moms, in sorting clothes they were simultaneously allowed to shop for their children—a win/win for moms and for God’s Closet! Once clothes were sorted, shoppers could sign up online and place their orders, which were then filled and readied for pick up.
The first stop in the drive through was a dress boutique. Moms could browse a large variety of fancy dresses for their daughters while workers pulled their order. At the second stop they received a piece of literature, such as Steps to Christ, and were offered a prayer for the burdens of their heart. As in High Point, the calmer experience offered more one-on-one personal time with the mothers.
When COVID-19 required closure of indoor activities, the Spartanburg, SC, God’s Closet chapter was also forced to regroup. With the tremendous amount of clothing that had been donated, they couldn’t wait long. Around 30 volunteers showed up to help. They were able to provide 4-7 large bags of children’s clothing to 363 family units (606 individuals) facing difficult times. Some had lost their jobs due to the virus, some had been evicted from their homes and a couple of families had lost everything in a fire. Volunteers shared that they will always cherish the experience of meeting families and praying with them in the parking lot.
There are around a dozen chapters of God’s Closet in the Carolina Conference, with the two newest being in Franklin, NC, and Rutherfordton, NC. The latter will be the first God’s Closet exclusively for ladies. The prayer of each volunteer is that as they help people through difficult times, they will witness the love of God and His mercy towards them.
— Natalie Boonstra, Communication Summer Intern