Clothes for the Community: Hope’s Closet

Clothes for the Community: Hopes Closet

Shannon Hayes, Student Journalist

In the heart of Endicott, one small organization is slowly making a difference in the lives of countless individuals. How? By providing clothes – and hope.

Hope’s Closet is a charity organization that takes in gently used clothes and delivers them to people in the community in need.
Patty Townsend, the founder, got the idea from her experience with Voices Recovery Center. She began volunteering there after her son’s miraculous recovery from addiction and substance use. Patty has since tried to further help anyone who could be in a similar situation.

It was just another day when a woman came in asking for clothes for her son, wondering if Voices Recovery had any clothing donations. They didn’t, and Patty realized that was a void that needed to be filled. After talking to the director of Voices Recovery and getting approval for her idea, she reached out to family and friends to see if they were willing to donate anything. She was met with an overwhelming response.

“Incredibly, it just kept growing. And then people would tell other people and pretty soon…I was getting all kinds of donations and holding in-person events and delivering to people…It just took off.”

In-person events consist of setting up tables and laying out clothes for people to take. Delivery includes asking the client what size and article of clothing they need and then bringing it to wherever they ask. The best part about the system is that the clothes are always free. No cost, no questions, just take what you need. Patty wants to make sure everyone is supported, not judged.

Part of a flyer detailing one of Hope’s Closet’s in-person events.

The most impressive part of the operation is how small it is.

Hope’s Closet entirely operates out of Patty’s house. Her husband John, a contractor, built a shed attached to the house to store all of the clothes. He built it when his business was shut down for five weeks during Covid, and it’s been full ever since. And it’s still not enough. But Patty finds space, through closets and the house’s extra bedroom.

With Hope’s Closet involved in her life, Patty’s days consist of an incredible amount of phone calls and text messages from client agencies and an even more incredible amount of trash bags filled to the brim with clothes. “One of the struggles that remains today is sometimes getting overwhelmed with donations…I came home last night and there were 10 bags of clothes on my porch.” Although it can be a lot, she’ll never turn donations away. “I do tell people they can drop them off anytime. It’s a good problem to have, but it’s a lot of work.”

Once Patty gets the donations, then her work really begins. She sorts through every bag, labeling every size and separating any stained or damaged articles of clothing out. Then she matches the clothing up with one of her labeled shelves. “It’s about 20 to 25 hours a week of organizing and moving things around and that kind of stuff. But that’s what I love.”

Then all it takes is matching the client up with what they require, finding in the shed or extra room, putting it in labeled bags, and asking one of her volunteers to deliver it. Patty’s retired husband John makes a lot of runs for her, but she also has a couple of local volunteers who do runs for her.

When asked about what her struggles are, Patty doesn’t even mention the amount of work she has or the time it takes. Her biggest struggle is ensuring there are clothes for everyone who needs it. “The biggest struggle though is finding men’s clothing. You know, men wear their clothes til they fall right off of them. And so we don’t get a lot of men’s donations.”

Further down the line, Patty would like to combine Hope’s Closet with other local organizations helping recovering addicts or others in need. “I’m on a few working groups and committees for people that supply food and people that serve like NARCAN training and things like that. So I think when I retire [from her other job] I’d like to make this partnership with other organizations. Probably what I would really like is like a storefront area where I could have people come and look at the items.”

There are many ways that a student could get involved. Patty is only one person, and could always use help sorting and labeling. When students want to help with that, she supplies them with a couple of bags of clothes, a bin, labels, and instructions and lets them sort on their own time at their own house. Another way to help could be at one of Hope’s Closet’s in-person events, by setting up or taking down tables and clothes or just generally helping people find what they need throughout the event. The final way students can get involved is by donating clothes.

“Years ago, there were many people along the way that helped my son and I feel this is my way of paying it forward,” Patty told the Voice of the Saints. “If you’re in recovery or you’re coming back from an abusive situation…to get something nice and comfortable, you know, like new clothing is important…Kindness goes a long way.”

To contact Patty for how to get involved, you can reach her at [email protected].