VILONIA — For some area children, the economic recession means going to school in pants that are too short, T-shirts that don’t fit and no winter jacket. Some adults are affected also, as some do not have proper clothing for job interviews.
It doesn’t have to be that way, according to organizers with the Vilonia Baptist Fellowship Clothes Closet. They have lots of clothing and shoes and the price is right.
"We have so much good stuff and it is all free to anyone who needs it," said Tamara Tallant, founder. "I would say that we have just about every size and color. We invite anyone in need to come and get what they need. We really just want to be a resource — a light in our community."
Tallant, as well as other volunteers, gather weekly to sort, organize and hang donated clothing, shoes, toys and household items in the large, red-painted tin building located next to the church at 767 U.S. Highway 64. Walking up and down the spacious aisles, among the handmade clothing racks, one has the feeling of browsing in a no frills department store. The different aspects of clothing are staged together making it "shopper friendly," Tallant said. For instance, all blouses are hung on a rack by size and color-coded.
"We want it to be as close to a shopping experience as possible," Tallant said. "We give them a big bag and they can take what they need. "
Name brands such as Old Navy, Liz Claiborne and Levis can be seen, as well as some not so familiar. There appears to be a variety for men, women, boys, girls, toddlers and infants. Footwear ranges from tennis shoes to fancy high heels to boots.
The closet, Tallant said, was launched with a couple of sacks of clothes about four years ago.
"We had meager beginnings. We started with a bag of clothes that I had in my car," Tallant said
Someone else donated a second bag and it grew from there. At that time, they were in cramped quarters in an upstairs room in the building, she elaborated. Tallant recruited her children, her husband Steve and her 73-year-old dad Kenneth Horn to begin the endeavor.
"Of course, we had and still have the support of our whole congregation," Tallant said. "And, if Pastor Wayne (Kocourek) hadn’t seen what I saw, we couldn’t have done this."
Gradually, Tallant recruited a volunteer team including Jeanette Wilson, Harold and Jean Cleavinger, Denise Lewis, Jim Durham and Will Hunt to help. While some of the team attends VBF church, that is not a requirement for volunteers.
With the downturn in the economy, Tallant said in recent months they have seen an increase in needs. While they average helping about 15 families a week, she recalls week they have provided clothing for 36 families in one week.
Many of the parents they see work but just can’t afford clothing. One mother, Tallant recalls, visits regularly to clothe her four children. She often brings clothing that her children have outgrown back, Tallant added, to pass on to someone else.
While they aren’t required to share their circumstances, some do and the conditions might be surprising to some, volunteers said.
One woman who came in recently was looking for a broom to sweep her dirt floor. The family was living in a tent Not only did the closet volunteers round up a broom but they also supplied some sheets and blankets.
Another family they helped was living in a car. The closet provided clothing for all, including some to be worn on a job interview.
Those receiving clothing, Tallant said, are not pressured about religion. They are invited to attend church and given a church pamphlet, to take with them, showing the times.
"We always ask them if there is something that we can pray for them about when everyone else is gone," she said. "But, that’s it."
Tallant said the closet generally is stocked fairly well but could use more maternity clothing, toddler items and hygiene items. She encourages anyone with unwanted items to donate.
"It’s just like putting beads on a string without a knot," Tallant said. "Stuff comes and stuff goes. We just want to keep helping anyone that needs help."
The closet hours are 6-8 p.m. Mondays unless there is a special request such as a need for burnout victims or a homeless shelter, Tallant said.