Clothes Closet making an impact

Published 9:00 am Sunday, March 1, 2020

Nonprofit thrift store’s mission is to love God, serve others

WELLS — Proceeds from a nonprofit thrift store in Wells are impacting people from many walks of life throughout the region.

Formed in 1987 through a ministerial association, Clothes Closet moved to its present location on South Broadway in Wells in August 2011. From its inception, it has been run solely by volunteers and has depended on donations.

Volunteer coordinator Rita Bebler said at the start clothes were free or required only a small contribution, and the organization depended on donations for utilities, rent and other costs.

As the years passed and the organization grew, its outreach and impact on the community grew, as well.

It sells clothing of all sizes, as well as coats, bedding, curtains, kitchen items, books, toys, crafts, knick-knacks, decorations, jewelry, vintage items and other miscellaneous items. Most clothing items are marked between $1 and $3.

Through the money it raises from sales at the thrift store, it spends only about 10% on operating costs — things like rent, shelving and utilities, Bebler said. The remainder of the funds are given back to various causes in the community.

A group of volunteers at Clothes Closet in Wells stands underneath the nonprofit’s motto painted on the wall above one of the windows: “Love God, serve others.” The organization is run entirely by volunteers. – Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune

The organization’s outreach spans from the Iowa border on the south to Minnesota Highway 30 on the north between Albert Lea and Blue Earth. It covers two private schools and three public school districts and helps students in need with milk money and being able to participate in school trips, she said. It also helps with food and clothing as needed.

It provides gas cards for patients in cancer centers at hospitals in Blue Earth, Albert Lea and Mankato and gives between $300 and $500 to new cancer or dialysis patients for them to use on food, gas and hotel expenses when traveling to and from treatments. 

In addition, Clothes Closet gives assistance to about 25 people a month for utilities, and works with the Faribault County Human Services Department, providing gas cards for people who are stranded, along with other types of assistance as needed.

In all of these instances, it relies on social workers to connect them with the people in need, she said.

It also works with Meals on Wheels and a few area food shelves to provide food and personal items and has started giving area fire and ambulance departments $500 each annually.

Clothes Closet in Wells includes much more than just clothes. It also sells household items, decorations, toys, books, bedding, curtains and jewelry, to name a few. – Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune

“Our outreach is phenomenal, but it’s phenomenal because we are so well supported by donations,” said Bebler, who has been with the organization for about 15 years and has played a lead role for the last 10 years.

She said Clothes Closet doesn’t usually take cash donations but makes all of its money from the sales at the store. It receives donations from people as far away as Albert Lea, Fairmont, Waseca and Blue Earth.

Bebler attributed this to the fact that people like what they’re doing with the money they make from the store and give to people and organizations over such a wide area.

The organization logged 6,755 volunteer hours in 2019 from 44 volunteers, with a majority of the hours coming from about 13 volunteers. Volunteers must be in good physical shape, be willing to work hard and be pleasant to interact with.

The Clothes Closet motto is “Love God, serve others.”

In addition to helping people in the region, Clothes Closet has also donated clothes in Jamaica, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Philippines, Kenya and Texas.

The store is open from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. the second Saturday of each month.

A room in the basement of Clothes Closet in Wells features all Christmas items. – Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune

 

By the numbers

6,755: Volunteer hours through Clothes Closet in 2019

44: Volunteers at Clothes Closet in 2019

$500: Amount given to each area fire and ambulance department in 2019

 

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