The coordinators and volunteers of the Waldoboro Free Clothing Closet want the residents of the town and surrounding communities to know that they are eager for business.
“I see new people every time I’m there,” said Rhonda Conway, a coordinator for the Free Clothing Closet. “But we’re still not sure everyone knows that we’re here.”
Conway, along with fellow coordinators Gale Henry, Betsy Wooster, Emily Trask-Eaton, and Sue Lewis, has been working to get the word out about the closet’s new location at the Medomak House at 124 Friendship Road.
Volunteers have posted on social media, added flyers to the bags handed out by the food pantry, and put up signs in a number of locations. They are committed to ensuring that the people who need the service they provide know that they are open again, and that they have an expanded with “lots of fabulous clothing” available.
Ron and Peggy Davis purchased the Medomak House in a bank sale in 2020. Active members of the Broad Bay United Church of Christ, the couple became aware of the needs in the community and decided they wanted to do something to help the town that has been their home for the last five years.
While in need of repair, the property on Friendship Street with its large house and barn had a solid structure and the potential to be a touchstone to serve several of the most pressing needs of town residents. With input from town officials, the Davises began to look for the right organizations that would benefit from the space and the location.
The Waldoboro Food Pantry, which has been a resource to the community in a number of locations since the 1980s, relocated to the Medomak House in June 2020 and now regularly serves 80-100 families from Waldoboro and surrounding communities.
With the successful installation of the food pantry at the Medomak House, the Davises approached the coordinators of the closet and offered them a designated space in the barn. The donated shed that had been home to the closet for the last several years had served the organization well, but the new location at the Medomak House felt like a palace, according to Conway.
The Waldoboro Free Clothing Closet initially opened in 2017, but COVID-19 forced the closet to temporarily shutter its operations in 2020. The coordinators used that time to plan for the new space they had been offered.
They bought clothing racks, signs, and hangers from a Christopher & Banks clothing store that was closing. They filled the new location with a wider selection than they have ever been able to feature. Conway said the facility looks more like a boutique than a closet now.
The Waldoboro Free Clothing Closet opened at the Medomak house location in April. Racks of men’s and women’s clothing feature both casual and more formal attire: active wear, summer dresses, suits for job interviews. A long rack along the back wall is filled with the clothing for babies, toddlers, and school-age children.
Clothing ensembles are merchandised on walls and posts throughout the space. Shoes and specialty items are available, including preemie clothes, maternity wear, scrubs and accessories.
Volunteers are on hand in the new space to help clients find what they need. According to Conway, the volunteers particularly enjoy locating specific requests and helping coordinate outfits.
The closet serves all ages. Conway said they get a lot of moms with babies, but she worries that elderly clients have been hesitant to take advantage of the offerings out of concern that there are others who are more in need.
“We want to assure everyone we have tons of stuff,” Conway said. Donations are generous and plentiful.
The coordinators have plans to expand into a second room and to possibly add household goods to the mix. They also recently partnered with the Ecumenical Diaper Council in Newcastle to provide diapers for low-income families with small children. Waldoboro Public Works moved the closet’s donation bin to the Medomak House so items can be dropped off there at any time. They accept donations of in-season new and gently used clothing in all sizes from diapers to 5X. Conway said the biggest need right now is 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 the clients who need the service they provide. “Things have been really positive in terms of people donating beautiful clothing,” Conway said.
Financial donations are also accepted. Conway said the closet “wants to at least be able to pay their electric bill.” Money raised can also be used to purchase additional fixtures when they expand and can allow them to source some of the harder to find clothing items that are in the greatest demand.
The garments at the closet are gathered and made available for personal use by those in the community who have need. In order to prevent resellers from taking advantage of the generous offerings, the closet has a two-bag limit.
The closet is currently open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Questions about hours or the availability of specific clothing items can be asked by messaging its Facebook page.
With the food pantry and the clothing closet in place, the Davises are considering next steps. “It’s very much a work in progress,” said Peggy Davis, of the Medomak House’s community-based mission, “but there’s a real spirit about it.”
“We all rise together,” she said.