When the Jackson County Clothing Center opens its doors at a new location Oct. 5, volunteer Cheryl Vierling wants clients to be “wowed.”
There’s more open space, it’s more organized and everything is so clean, said Vierling, who serves as secretary of the center’s board of directors.
Since 1982, the center has collected and distributed free clothing to those in need in the community. In that time, it has operated from several different locations, including the Vehslage Building in downtown Seymour, a church basement and for more than 15 years the back of a medical office building at 207 N. Pine St.
That building is owned by Dr. Charles Calhoun, who is planning to retire in 2021. Not knowing his plans for the building and needing more space, the board decided they might as well start looking for a new place sooner rather than later.
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Now, Vierling, who has volunteered there for three years, and others carrying out the center’s mission hope they have found a forever home at 622 W. Second St. in Seymour.
The relocation hasn’t been without some bumps, however. Originally, the clothing center’s board had planned to move into a house at 708 W. Second St. but was met with opposition from neighbors who didn’t want the center so close to them.
“We had just heard about the building down the street and started looking at it,” board President Shannan Silver said. “We knew we were going to have to move in the near future, and we thought that was the place.”
Since the property at 708 W. Second St. was zoned for residential, they had to go before the Seymour Plan Commission and Seymour Board of Zoning Appeals to seek a land use variance. Ultimately, the city denied the center’s request.
But when one door closes, another opens, and that was the case, literally, for the clothing center.
“It really ended up working out to our favor,” Silver said. “As we were going through that process, this house became available and was already zoned for what we needed.”
A lot of work from a lot of people has gone into moving the nonprofit center during the past two weeks. Even staff members and inmates from the Jackson County Jail supplied manpower to help move shelving, racks and totes full of clothing.
“We couldn’t have done it without their help,” Silver said.
The main room of the new clothing center is filled with a checkout area with a countertop to give clients a space to sort their items. There also are racks of footwear, purses and boxes of scarves, hats and gloves.
Other rooms are designated for women’s and girls clothing, infant and toddlers’ and men’s and boys, and all clothing is sorted by type and size to make it quicker and easier for clients to find what they need.
A back room provides volunteers an area to sort and hang donations, and there also is a storage area, where blankets and bedding are kept.
“It’s so well organized, and everything has a place,” Vierling said.
She also said being in a neighborhood makes the service more friendly, welcoming and accessible to clients who walk than it would be in the commercial district on the east side of Seymour.
“Most of our clients walk, bike or take the bus,” she said.
A new addition to the center is a drop-off box on the front porch for donations. One of the concerns from neighbors was people leaving boxes and trash bags full of clothing outside the building in plain sight.
“We want to be good neighbors,” Silver said. “We don’t want it to look bad.”
In the past, the center has kept other items to give away, too, but due to lack of storage, that will no longer be the case.
With a desire to focus on making sure people have nice, clean clothing, the center is no longer accepting or giving out most housewares. It will, however, still be providing people with free blankets and bedding.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic closed the center for several months beginning in March, it sees a steady flow of people in need, many who have lost income because of the pandemic.
Since reopening in July, the center has served 450 families with the majority of clothing going to children, Vierling said.
With the season changing and temperatures dropping, Silver said people will be in need of coats, sweaters, pants and other cold-weather gear. At this time, the center is no longer accepting warm weather attire, she said.
Besides donations from the public, the center receives financial support from many area churches but could use more support from the community.
“We’ve got slightly more of an expense here than we did at the other place, so we’re hoping we can kind of make that up by getting a few more on board,” Silver said.
Because of COVID-19, the center continues to revamp its process for donating and distributing clothing; however, clients still have to fill out paperwork identifying themselves and those in their household.
“All of those names go into a file, and we keep a record of what they get each time they come in,” Silver said.
If the center is low on a particular item, such as jeans, then it may be limited to how many pairs a family can get in a six-month period.
“You kind of have to have a limit so you have enough to go around,” Silver said.
Most clients are gracious for whatever the center is able to provide them, she added.
Clients of the center vary from those who are homeless to grandparents on fixed incomes who are raising their grandchildren to single parents who don’t make enough money to buy new clothes for their children.
“I had a lady who just moved here, raising two children, and she needed school clothes,” Vierling said. “She was working and didn’t have the money. We were able to fit her daughter with school clothes and gave her church clothes.”
The center doesn’t want people to be embarrassed or ashamed to need their help.
“We want people to know we are here for them,” Vierling said. “And we are going to treat them as an individual and with respect.”
If you go
What: Grand reopening
When: 11 a.m. Oct. 5
Where: Jackson County Clothing Center, 622 W. Second St., Seymour
New hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays
How to help: Donations will be accepted during those times and can be taken to the back door