Community closet provides hand up to those in need
By Tyler Stocks
Saturday, August 31, 2019
Jermaine Howard has been living at the Community Crossroads Center for the past six months and looks forward to Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Between 2-4 p.m. on those days, Howard's face lights up as he carefully picks out shirts, pants and other needed items from the center's free clothing closet.
The closet is housed in a two-story brick building that sits beside the main shelter.
"I've been coming out (sunce) they started and I find nice coats, pants and shirts and stuff," Howard said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Howard, 44, was on the lookout for a coat.
"It's about to get cool now," Howard joked.
Howard is one of many people who benefit from the program which relies heavily on donations.
Richard McManus, a volunteer who oversees the closet, said it gives people a sense of dignity and allows them to take what they need while donating what they no longer use.
The closet also helps residents at the shelter, who often come in with nothing more than the clothes on their back, McManus said.
Bob Williams, the shelter's retiring executive director, said the closet provides clothing for people who are interviewing for jobs or who just need to look professional for work.
The idea for the closet came from a community member who approached Williams after shelter residents moved into the newer facility, which was completed in 2015.
"After we left that vacant two-story building, there was a lot of vacant space downstairs," Williams said. "And we actually had somebody from the community come to us and say, 'Hey, I'd like to open up a clothing closet.'
"Before that, we used to give all of our free clothing and stuff away to the Salvation Army," Williams said.
Williams said that he wants the closet to help anyone who needs it.
"I'm a firm believer that if somebody's going to bring stuff to us, we need to get that out to the rest of the community," he said.
The clothing closet also offers toys, books, cookware and even basic essentials like deodorant and toothpaste.
Organizing the items takes dedicated volunteers who sort, label and stock the shelves.
McManus, who manages the volunteers, said that four people currently run the closet and more volunteers are needed.
"We also need people to donate if they could," McManus said.
The items needed most are plus-size shirts and pants for men and women, along with toiletries.
While the closet also has suits and dresses, the inventory is limited and McManus is hoping people can donate those items as well.
Williams said that no matter how big or small, every donation is appreciated.
"We take all the stuff we're given," he said.
While the items are free, Williams said the scloset works to ensure people will not take advantage of the system.
"We kind of keep track of the people that come, because what we don't want is people coming there and making that their shopping extravaganza," Williams said.
Several months back, McManus said a woman was selling the items she took from the closet.
"We had one lady who was selling the stuff she got here and I had to let her go for a couple of months before she could come back," McManus said. "When she came back, she felt aggravated because she knows I'm watching her."
Despite a few bad apples who wish to take advantage of the free items, McManus is undeterred when it comes to helping those in need.
"It's on her conscience," McManus said. " (The closet) is for the entire Pitt County community to come in and get whatever they need.
"We don't want you to just come in and take," he said. "We want you to have what you need and also donate anything you might not need that somebody else can use."
To donate or to learn more about the closet program, call 752-0829 or visit http://www.communitycrossroadscenter.org