Clothing with Compassion - JFCS of Greater Philadelphia
About

Clothing with Compassion

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We provide free clothing to vulnerable individuals and their families throughout our region. There are no eligibility requirements to receive clothing. Our goal is to meet a basic need so they can better focus on handling other stressors in their lives, such as securing a steady source of income or finding permanent housing solutions.

Pop-Up Shops – Neighborhood boutiques providing free clothing to all

Our Closet – Powered by JFCS operates community-based pop-up shops throughout the city, where we offer community members who are struggling to make ends meet the opportunity to receive free, quality clothing in a dignified, and welcoming space. Click here to learn more.

Our Closet Emergency Response – When you need it most

Recognizing that not all individuals and families are able to access our pop up shops in times of crisis, Our Closet provides emergency assistance to those in need. To learn more contact our program director, Melanie London at melanie@ourclosetpa.org.

About Our Closet – Powered by JFCS

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Our Closet History

Executive Director Jill Aschkenasy founded Our Closet in 2011 in response to a crisis she witnessed that year, a Philadelphia family’s house had burned down, and they were in need of the most basic items to regain stability during an undoubtedly frightening and stressful time. Hearing this, Jill reached out to her network to help this family, and the response she received was overwhelming. Donations poured in from friends, family members, and neighbors to help this unknown family rebuild their home. Jill founded Our Closet to continue to provide support to the many families and individuals whose stories remain untold.

In 2011, Jill started Our Closet with one partner and one pop-up location. That year, Our Closet distributed approximately 15 bags of clothing and worked with 20 volunteers. Today, Our Closet operates nine locations with seven pop-ups occurring every month. Each month we receive 70 bags of donated clothes and work with 130 volunteers and distribute 25,000 pieces of clothing to over 350 individuals each month.

Merger with Jewish Family and Children’s Service (JFCS)

Since its inception in 2011, Our Closet has seen an unrelenting need from the Philadelphia community for its services. With three staff members and a corps of 130 volunteers, Our Closet’s capacity and resources was unable to keep pace with the region’s need.

In 2016, Our Closet began exploring the possibility of merging with a larger entity in response to the organization’s rapid growth and reached out to JFCS.

The merge with Our Closet presents JFCS with an opportunity to offer programing that is very core to the JFCS mission, to support our community during the times they need it most with a basic human need.

JFCS, founded in 1855, is a well-established Philadelphia nonprofit operating in four locations throughout the region, and provides Our Closet with the necessary support and infrastructure to sustain its expansion to reach more in need, while growing in a thoughtful and strategic direction. The merger was finalized November 2016.

Clothing Donations

Our Closet – Powered by JFCS accepts gently-used clothing of all sizes and seasons for men, women, and children. We ask that clothing be pre-washed prior to drop off. All donations are tax-deductible, and can be dropped off at various locations through the Philadelphia region.

Volunteer

Our Closet – Powered by JFCS volunteers are involved in every aspect of clothing distribution, from arranging clothing collections to sorting, bagging, and tagging clothing at our warehouse, and physically running the pop-up shops. Our Closet accepts school and corporate groups, in addition to individuals looking to serve, and experiences can be on-going or simply one-time. Each volunteer experience involves a service-learning component to comprehensively engage volunteers. Click here to volunteer.

What Makes Us Different

While there are a number of agencies working to help individuals meet basic needs, navigating these agencies can be complicated and daunting. Many agencies are simply inaccessible to the city’s most vulnerable. Our Closet – Powered by JFCS closes this accessibility gap by not requiring a referral and maintaining no eligibility requirements to access service.

Shopper Testimonials

Steven P. has been shopping with Our Closet since October 2015.  Although he is a new shopper, he is already an expert, knowing exactly what he wants when he comes in.  Steven is a very well dressed, well-spoken man, with a sharp intellect.  He enjoys playing chess and reading books like Moby Dick in his spare time.  He loves shopping with Our Closet because he knows he will get good quality clothing, while being treated with dignity.  When we asked him how he would describe Our Closet in one word, he said, “Grace.”

Anthony (Tony) C. has been shopping with Our Closet since October 2015.  He is cheerful, well spoken, and very open about his life experiences.   When he shops with Our Closet he always shops for himself, but will also go out of his way to spread the word about us to those around him.  When we asked him what he liked best about shopping with Our Closet, he told us:  “I know I will find clothing and that it will be in wonderful condition.”  When Anthony is not shopping with Our Closet, he loves to spend his time cooking, especially Italian and seafood.  Although he has only been shopping with us for a few months, he says that he always has a good experience at our pop-ups and would describe us as “Fantastic!”

Shelia M. has been both a long time shopper and a long time volunteer, being part of the Our Closet community for about a year.  She always walks in, whether she is shopping or volunteering with a smile and a positive attitude.  “I love to give back to the community, I try to be active in the community as much as possible.”  This includes attending regular bible study at her local church, something she did not always attend, but has recently been inspired by a good teacher.  Just as you would expect, she does not just shop for herself.  Most days she is shopping for her daughter and grandchildren, proclaiming that they are so well dressed now that she brings them Our Closet’s clothing.  However, on occasion she has found some clothing for herself.  Her favorite item she has gotten is her beautiful leather coat (she is wearing the coat in the picture) We asked Sheila if she could describe Our Closet in one word and here is what she told us: “Awesome! Magnificent!” I could use a whole lot of adjectives.” 

Kenjra C. is a mother of four beautiful children and is currently working at Lord and Taylor. She has been coming to Our Closet for about 2 years. “I just wandered into Our Closet about 2 years ago… I got the number 42 and have been a proud customer ever since.” When she comes to Our Closet she mostly looks for clothing for her children, but occasionally will get something nice for herself, such as jeans or shoes. Kenjra loves the quality of clothing she finds and feels valued as a customer. “Thanks to Our Closet I truly have two of the best dressed little girls in West Philadelphia.”

Volunteer Testimonials

Lecia M. started volunteering for Our Closet about two years ago after hearing about us through a friend.  She was immediately drawn to the mission of Our Closet because of her background in nursing.  Lecia has volunteered at many pop-ups over the years, as well as participating in additional volunteer opportunities.  She loves to help people find the perfect outfit, for whatever occasion they need.  “The smile that comes across their faces when they pick out something they absolutely love is wonderful!” Lecia describes the experience as very humbling and inspiring.   She loves to interact with she shoppers and make sure that they are finding clothing that they really love.

Heather B. started volunteering for Our Closet about two years ago after hearing about us through her good friend Lecia, a fellow volunteer.  Once she was involved, her son picked Our Closet for his Bar-mitzvah project.  “My whole family participated in collecting, sorting and working at Our Closet pop-ups and Donation Days events. The Bar Mitzvah was over a year ago, and I am still here!”  It is really the shoppers that keep her coming back! She loves that she can make a connection with a shopper just by helping them pick something out. Favorite memory: “After volunteering a few times in a row, you start to recognize the shoppers, and they recognize you too.  I had brought my son David to work one of the pop ups with me, and he was in charge of check out, taking down people’s names.  One of the shoppers was named David, and my son said to him “That’s my name too, that must be why you have great taste- I like your selections!”  The next time I came back to a pop up without my son, who was in school, and the shopper David said hello and remembered to ask me about him.  It really demonstrated to me that we are making a difference in these people’s lives. When people are treated with respect and friendship, they give it right back to you.”

Sue P. started volunteering for Our Closet (at our original LIFT location!) about three years ago after hearing about it through Jill Aschkenasy, Our Closet’s Founder.  Not only does she volunteer at our pop-up shops on a regular basis, but she also donates clothing, and helps with anything we may need – no matter how last minute we need it!   Sue is always trying to get people involved, whether than means recruiting new volunteers or making people clean out there closets to donate clothing.  However, her favorite part about being involved with Our Closet is working at the pop-up.  “I love working in the pop up shops because it’s so fun to help a shopper find a great sweater or a warm coat. The people that visit Our Closet are always so appreciative. It feels really good to be part of that experience.” Favorite Memory: We were doing a coat drive and there was this great mink coat in a really small size and everyone wanted it but it didn’t fit anyone. Finally, this tiny woman came in and it fit her perfectly. She was so excited to have scored this awesome coat. She did a little happy dance in the middle of the room. I’ll never forget the smile on her face that day.

Partner Testimonials

Barrack Hebrew Academy is a new partner of Our Closet, but that has not stopped them from being enthusiastic and eager to help (and a lot of fun)! Barrack Hebrew academy seeks “to educate young people in a pluralistic setting and to help them to appreciate American and Jewish values and texts.” They have joined us at the warehouse 3 times so far, one group sorting more than the next! Barrack Hebrew Academy was first interested in Our Closet because of how our missions align. One of the staff members at Barrack told us that, “Our Closet fits in with our mission because it promotes some of the same values that Jewish tradition holds dear, including promoting the dignity of people whom we serve; providing clothing for people who otherwise lack clothing; and lending a hand through direct service. It is exciting for our students to feel that at the end of a 90-minute shift, they have sorted enough clothing to fill up a pop-up store and send people back to their families, heads held high with wonderful clothes.”

Repair the World is a national nonprofit that works to engage young adults, particularly Jews in their 20s and 30s, in meaningful local service opportunities. They work to connect individuals with volunteer projects in their communities, as well as hosting their own events that focus on different social justice issues. Repair the World has been partnering with Our Closet since August 2015, and feels that “Our Closet’s focus on respect and dignity pairs with Repair the World’s focus on serving ‘with’ the community, not ‘for’ the community” Our Closet is one of our Food Justice partners, and together we have developed curriculum that helps local students explore the impacts of hunger and poverty on Philadelphia.