Free clothing closet gives to community, no questions asked


Madi Bierl

Donated shoes sit on a shelf for people to take at Clothing That Works.

Clothing That Works, a free clothing closet in Ames for adult-sized people, gathers donations from the community and offers them to anyone who walks through their door.

“We serve about 40 people a week,” said Cathy Halverson, a volunteer at the shop. “We welcome everyone–no questions asked. No ID required.”

The store is always readily stocked with plenty of women’s clothes. Men’s clothes are also commonly available but typically in smaller quantities. Halverson said this is because both women and men take from the men’s section, and men do not donate as many items.

People who enter the store do not have a limit to how much they can take. A Clothing That Works volunteer gives every customer a large empty bag as they walk in, and most of the time, people will take whatever they can fit in their bag.

Volunteer Barb Pedersen enjoys helping people find items in the store. She said she will often help customers look around the store and show them pieces she thinks will suit them, such as a coat or a pair of mittens.

“It’s just very satisfying because, you know, it’s easier to wake up in the morning when you know you have something special to put on,” Pedersen said.

Though there is no overall limit to how much clothing each person can take, there are individual limits for undergarments like underwear, socks and bras. Clothing That Works does not accept used underwear, which can make it harder to come by. Receiving clean bras and socks from donors also tends to be more difficult.

Halverson said the store is receiving a donation of 3,000 pairs of socks from Bomba Socks 18 months after they were requested.

When it comes to donations, Clothing That Works accepts all kinds of adult clothing no matter what season it is, as long as it is clean. Halverson said they send clothing off to be recycled when it is filled with dog hair, wet or dirty.

“We have kept so much stuff out of the landfills because we recycle old rubber shoes; we recycle jeans,” Pedersen said. “They go to separate companies where they recycle them, and they give us a small stipend back.”

The volunteers at Clothing That Works enjoy contributing to sustainability efforts. Though the store’s main goal is to supply adults who are in need, they are also willing to give to people who can afford new clothes because it cycles old items back into the community.

“We are happy to give it away even if the kids can afford it,” Halverson said. “You know, if they want to come over, it’s getting things back into use.”

Clothing That Works began as an organization called Suited For Works that donated professional clothing to people in need so they could improve their careers.

The Collegiate United Methodist Church and Wesley Foundation took over the shop in 2001 until it was transformed into Clothing That Works in 2009. They are both still connected to the store, but Halverson took charge of the shop in 2016 and opened their services to all adults in need.

Even though the shop no longer focuses on solely professional clothing, they still have suits for people who need something to wear to an interview. They also have lots of Iowa State merchandise and a few retro items.

Halverson and Pedersen are members of the church, but Kim Gawley, another volunteer, came across Clothing That Works online. After reading about it, she knew she wanted to get involved.

The volunteers each decide which jobs that they want to fall into, according to Gawley. She said she tends to hang the clothes and put them where they need to go because she likes to keep moving. Gawley also likes to interact with the people who come into the store each week.

“I’ve gotten to know the people that come in here every Wednesday to make them feel a little bit more comfortable,” Gawley said. “I try to say hi and make them feel better.”

Clothing That Works is located at 130 S. Sheldon Suite. It is open for anyone to shop from 2 to 5 p.m. every Wednesday and from 9 a.m. to noon the first Saturday of every month. Additional information can be found on their Facebook.

“There’s just no judgment, and if [people] want to come, come because we’ve got the clothes,” Gawley said.