Back to school shopping can start a little early for anyone – offered free – this Saturday, July 20 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The “shopping” however might be a bit different than one might experience anywhere else as the Oakdale Enrichment Society (OES) hosts the Second Annual Community Closet event.
The event will be hosted at the Gene Bianchi Community Center and is open to the public. The committee places emphasis on this being a “community” event and not specifically for the “needy.”
“I think a lot of people hear us saying it’s free,” shared OES Treasurer Lupe Aguilera. “It’s free for anyone.”
Aguilera added the message seems to be spreading well as she’s learned of many planning to attend with their children.
“And it’s first come, first served too,” Vice-President and event founder Cher Bairos stated. “We’re going to open up at 9 o’clock, so people might want to line up early.”
Bairos stumbled upon the event last year, when a simple social media post inquiring if people would be interested in a children’s clothes swap went viral. Much to her surprise and pleasure as the idea became an event, volunteers rallied as well. OES Board members Amy Velasco, President; Lisa Ballard, Secretary; and Aguilera were all in from day one.
“This year we had to do it in July because of the location and other things going on,” Bairos noted of the change from last year’s late August date.
The non-profit will return the event to August next year.
“I think we have less clothes this time this year, because of the timing,” she continued, “but things are pouring in.”
The group began taking donations earlier this summer. Clothing donations of all sizes will continue to be collected at the Community Center on Wednesday, July 17 and Thursday, July 18 between the hours of 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Volunteer opportunities are also available during this time as well as Saturday beginning at 8:30 a.m.
“We always need volunteers, yes,” Ballard stated. “The more the merrier. I’ll never turn away a volunteer.”
“The plan is to come in Saturday with absolutely zero to do,” Velasco said of the team’s ambition. “So if it’s not done Thursday night, we’re here Thursday until it’s done.”
As for additional donations, the group shared the community and business support continues to be overwhelming. From the storage space offered by EZ Storage free of charge, to shopping bags for the community to carry their finds away in, everyone has rallied to help OES with the event.
“I’m getting texts like crazy and messages, these people just want to help,” Ballard said of the business and community support. “It’s wonderful.”
As far as additional needs that might help with the ease of the event, Velasco offered, “Clothing racks are great, if people are willing to let us use or borrow. It would be nice to be able to hang things this year versus the huge piles. We’re still going to have huge piles, but to be able to hang some things might be helpful.”
Shoppers attending with their own reusable bags is also encouraged. There is no limit on the amount of items a person may take. Shoppers will be allowed in to shop in waves as opposed to all at once to allow some crowd control. An estimate of over 300 attended last year’s event.
As for the benefit to the four committee members and community volunteers, it’s pretty simple – it’s about the gratitude and response of all who attend.
“To see their faces when they’re going through those clothes, especially the kids,” Aguilera said. “Makes me tear up just thinking about it. They get so excited.”
For additional information or to offer donations or help contact Velasco at 840-2273 or Bairos at 496-1134.