Since January 2012, the Community Clothes Closet in Justin has been furnishing free clothing items to families in 64 communities in Denton and surrounding counties.
CCC was started by long-time Justin residents Joanna Johnson and Gwen St. Clair as a Christian charitable outreach. They maintain their positions as executive director and executive coordinator, respectively.
“We have grown and changed and are always looking for new ideas on how we can do it better,” said St. Clair. “We’re trying to keep it relevant. As times change we have to change.”
Its first location was a small room inside the Justin Trading Post, but within six months, it moved to a leased warehouse. Then in 2017, it leased its current three-building complex at 117 W. 6th St. and currently serves up to 50 families each Monday plus one Saturday each month.
“We don’t have criteria,” St. Clair said. “We just ask that they sign up, tell us how many are in their family and then we work off of that number to determine how many clothes they can get each time.”
Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic, shopping has been done by appointment only, except in emergencies. Each family member is allowed up to 10 items, plus one coat and one pair of shoes each month.
“Most of them don’t get as much as they are allowed though some of them do,” said Sheri LaRue, who manages the men’s section and also keeps track of overall inventory.
The all-volunteer non-profit organization provides not only new and gently used items for men, women, and children, but also a place to drop off unwanted things.
“People in Justin ask where can they donate well we’re right down the street,” St. Clair said. “We have a big donation box that’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Just drop it in. We don’t have to be there. It’s a huge service. You don’t have to throw the clothes away.”
Every item CCC receives is inspected for holes, tears, broken zippers, inappropriate slogans, and other issues which can cause them not to be made available for distribution. Anything in good shape is appropriately sorted by category.
“Our motto is pretty much ‘if I would not put my child in it we don’t put it out,’ ” St. Clair said. “Or if I wouldn’t wear it, we don’t put it out. We touch every single thing that’s hung about three times.”
Community Clothes Closet provided 7,630 pairs of socks and underwear and 753 pairs of new tennis shoes during the Back to School campaign in August-October. That’s on top of 1,133 new toys donated by a local church and given to 649 children in December. Through October 2022, CCC has saved families more than $2 million in clothing costs.
CCC has 25-30 volunteers but can use more to hang, sort, and organize donations on Wednesdays and Thursdays, plus monetary and clothing donations, which can be made at any time. Racks are replenished weekly.
“It’s been crazy the last couple of months,” said Etheldora Stokes, who manages the women’s area and the Back to School efforts in addition to assisting with bagging clothing. “We want to make sure we have things out on the rack for people to choose from.
“They only have 20 minutes to shop so we try to organize and make it convenient for them to find what they need.”
“To maximize their 20 minutes everything is organized by size and in most areas color,” St. Clair added.
CCC raises some money through periodic Facebook live sales of new items at The Store @ CCC, an annual upscale purse auction in June, and as part of North Texas Giving Day. It also benefits from local church fundraisers and donations by individual people and businesses.
“We can always use kids stuff,” St. Clair said. “We never have enough kids clothing. We have enough kids shoes. We always get more boys than girls. The other need for us is jeans especially men’s. We never get enough in the small sizes.”