BY MICHAEL RICONDA
STONY POINT – For over 10 years Trinity United Methodist Church on East Main Street in Stony Point has hosted the North Rockland Kids’ Closet, one of North Rockland’s biggest charitable groups. Since its founding, the charity has gathered and distributed thousands of articles of clothing to needy families in North Rockland.
Founder and program coordinator Jo’Ann Feniger began the Kids’ Closet with a friend in 2003 as a way to directly impact their community. The effort began as a tiny activity, opening the same night as the church’s food pantry and usually operating on a case-by-case basis.
However, with time, the Kids’ Closet became so popular that it outgrew its tiny time of operation and had to stay open every week to accommodate community demand. At present, over 300 families are registered in the program’s database.
“We just started opening every Wednesday night,” Feniger said. “We would have lots of volunteers coming in and the people would just come anytime they needed clothing.”
The Kids Closet, which is located on the ground level of the church building, resembles any other clothing store. Families who register with the program can come in once a month, select items off racks and shelves and stuff one bag of clothing per child.
“They come and they walk around and they shop for themselves,” Feniger said. “We don’t charge them anything. Everything is free.”
Community support is also visible through the large network of volunteers who serve at the Kids Closet. About five to 10 regular volunteers work at the location alongside a larger pool of participants from North Rockland High School, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops and other young people looking for service hours or an opportunity to assist the less fortunate.
Though volunteers often come from regular feeder organizations informally partnered with the Kids’ Closet, the clothing itself normally comes from individual donations. Such gifts are often piecemeal, but those pieces usually pile up for a big bounty of apparel for all seasons. The service also accepts requests for specific items like baby strollers. Once a request is made, Feniger will often find a donor in the North Rockland community through Facebook or other local channels.
“We have a lot of nice clothing that people are really willing to share, so it’s great,” Feniger said. “People love to help others. It’s in their nature.”
The cumulative impact of these small acts of kindness is especially apparent in times of serious need. During Hurricane Sandy, for instance, Feniger recalled that so many donations were dropped off at the church that the designated storage space for the Kids Closet was packed and overflow had to be kept in the church sanctuary.
“We really, really could not do this without the help of people in the community who support it,” Feniger said. “North Rockland really is a special community. Everyone really supports one another so if, god forbid, something happens in someone’s family, you put a word out and then all of a sudden there’s a fundraiser going on or someone’s collecting clothing for somebody.”
The Kids Closet is open twice every month except February, July and August, usually for about an hour and a half to two hours per day. Those who wish to register, donate or volunteer can contact the charity through the North Rockland Kids Closet Facebook page.