The coordinators and volunteers of the Waldoboro Free Clothing Closet want residents of the town and surrounding communities to know that they are hungry for business.
“I see new people every time I’m there,” said Rhonda Conway, Free Clothing Closet coordinator. “But we’re still not sure everyone knows we’re here.”
Conway, along with fellow coordinators Gale Henry, Betsy Wooster, Emily Trask-Eaton and Sue Lewis, worked to publicize the new closet location at the Medomak House at 124 Friendship Road.
Volunteers posted on social media, added flyers to bags distributed by the pantry, and put up signs in several places. They are committed to making sure that those who need the service they are providing know that they are open again and that they have an extension with “lots of fabulous clothes” available.
Ron and Peggy Davis bought the Medomak house in a bank sale in 2020. Active members of the Broad Bay United Church of Christ, the couple realized the needs of the community and decided to do something to help the town. which has been their home for the past five years.
Although in need of repair, the Friendship Street property with its large house and barn had a solid structure and the potential to be a touchstone for many of the city’s residents’ most pressing needs. With input from city officials, the Davis’ began to research the right organizations that would benefit from the space and location.
The Waldoboro Food Pantry, which has been a resource for the community in several locations since the 1980s, moved to Medomak House in June 2020 and now regularly serves 80 to 100 families from Waldoboro and surrounding communities.
With the successful installation of the pantry at the Medomak house, the Davisians approached the closet coordinators and offered them a designated space in the barn. The donated hangar that housed the closet for several years had served the organization well, but the new location at Medomak House felt like a palace, according to Conway.
The free Waldoboro clothing closet initially opened in 2017, but COVID-19 forced the closet to temporarily close operations in 2020. Coordinators used this time to plan the new space offered to them.
They bought racks, signs and hangers from a closing Christopher & Banks clothing store. They have filled the new location with a wider selection than they have ever been able to present. Conway said the facility looks more like a store than a closet now.
The free Waldoboro clothes closet opened at the Medomak home location in April. The shelves of men’s and women’s clothing showcase both casual and more formal wear: sportswear, summer dresses, suits for job interviews. A long rack along the back wall is filled with clothes for babies, toddlers, and school-aged children.
Clothing sets are marketed on walls and poles throughout the space. Footwear and specialty items are available, including premature clothes, maternity clothes, scrubs and accessories.
Volunteers are on hand in the new space to help customers find what they need. According to Conway, volunteers especially like to spot specific requests and help coordinate outfits.
The closet serves all ages. Conway said they receive a lot of mothers with babies, but she is concerned that elderly customers have been reluctant to take advantage of the offers for fear that there will be others who need them more.
“We want to assure everyone that we have tons of stuff,” Conway said. Donations are generous and plentiful.
The coordinators plan to expand into a second room and possibly add household items to the mix. They have also recently partnered with the Newcastle World Diaper Council to provide diapers for low-income families with young children. Waldoboro Public Works moved the donation bin from the closet to the Medomak house so that items can be dropped off at any time. They accept donations of new and lightly used seasonal clothing in all sizes, from diapers to 5X. Conway said the biggest need right now is for little boys’ clothes.
Coordinators ask for items that donors would be proud to wear themselves, that are free of tears and stains, and that preserve the dignity of clients who need the service they provide. “Things have been very positive in terms of beautiful clothing donations,” said Conway.
Financial donations are also accepted. Conway said the closet “wanted to at least be able to pay his electric bill.” The money raised can also be used to purchase additional accessories as they grow and can provide them with some of the hardest to find and most requested clothes.
Clothes in the closet are collected and made available for personal use by those in the community who need them. In order to prevent resellers from taking advantage of generous offers, the closet has a limit of two bags.
The closet is currently open on Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 2 p.m. Questions about schedules or the availability of specific clothing can be asked by sending a message to their Facebook page.
With the pantry and clothes closet in place, the Davisians contemplate the next steps. “It’s really a work in progress,” said Peggy Davis, of the Medomak House Community Mission, “but there’s a real spirit about it.”
“We all stand up together,” she said.