Tables piled high – but kept neatly organized – filled every available spot in the main room at the Bianchi Community Center in Oakdale on Saturday, Aug. 21.
Members of the Oakdale Enrichment Society put on the annual Community Closet: Clothing “Free-For-All” to a receptive, appreciative audience. That, according to OES Secretary Lisa Ballard, one of the organizers for the Saturday clothing distribution.
“We provided clothes for 332 people and that did not count the young kids in strollers, or the infants,” Ballard explained. “So I would say overall it was close to 400 people.”
The event was not staged in 2020 due to the pandemic so it seems as though it was doubly needed this year, said Ballard. Also, people that have donated in the past had plenty of clothing to offer, as they had nowhere else to donate them last year, either.
This was the fourth time OES has put on the event and it is considered an ‘annual’ one even though they had to skip last year.
Monday through Thursday, Aug. 16 through 19, was used for taking in donations and getting set up for the big day.
Volunteers were a huge part of the undertaking, Ballard added, and Saturday’s shopping opportunity ran from 9 a.m. to noon, with a core group there to lend a helping hand.
All the clothes, shoes and coats, purses and more were free and there was something for everyone, as all sizes and styles were featured.
Ballard said it was especially heartwarming when families would come in and children could pick out as many items as they wanted.
“These are families that have a budget for back-to-school shopping so maybe a child can only get four pairs of pants and four shirts,” Ballard explained.
At the Clothing “Free-For-All” they don’t have that limitation.
“You see their faces light up when our volunteers get to tell them you can have anything you want,” Ballard noted.
Saturday’s volunteer workforce included 58 adults and another 23 Oakdale High School students, many involved in service clubs and organizations on campus. Also assisting were several members of the Family Support Network team, while the local Lions Club cooked up lunch for all volunteers.
“OES provided the food, the Lions did the barbecuing,” Ballard said.
The three-hour window for residents to pick up clothing and accessories saw a steady stream of people coming in to the Community Center and Ballard said they were already waiting in line shortly after 8 a.m.
Any items not distributed were then bagged up and taken to the local Hope Chest.
“I would say we distributed about 80 percent of the clothes,” Ballard said, with the rest still going to a charitable cause.
The OES got the word out about needing donations a couple of months ago and Ballard said they were also able to assemble a “Spirit Wear” table at the last minute, featuring clothing items from the local schools that was a huge draw for students.
She added that the generosity of residents, bringing their gently used clothing in for the event, along with the tireless work of the volunteers, ensured the 2021 “Free-For-All” was a success.
“It’s a fabulous feeling that we were able to help over 400 people,” Ballard said.