MISSOULA — When you walk into the Bethel Clothes Closet at Bethel Community Church in Missoula, you're greeted by Jane and Dr. Pepper, who will give you a garbage bag, sanitizer, a mask—and then you can start your shopping experience.
For the past 11 years, team leader Kim Murray has run the Bethel Clothes Closet, giving free clothes to anyone in the community who needs it. Everyone is welcome and Murray is here to make sure that people are helped.
“We are in hard times right now; there are a lot of people that are facing, you know, insecurity with housing—incomes are a little catawampus, we want to be able to help meet that need,” said Murray.
The closet has everything from footwear, coats, sweaters, and casual to professional attire. People are asked to take what they need and fill up their garbage bags. They have seen a lot of people come through already, Clothes Closet volunteer Sharon Balison says.
“Sometimes we'll serve 150 People 2000 pounds of clothes can go out the door within a day,” said Balison.
Bethel Clothes Closet was not able to host this free clothing event for the last two years due to COVID-19, but that did not stop them from reaching that demand in the community.
“Continue to supply the shelters and other closed closets and worked with caseworkers and people in immediate emergency needs to make sure that they had what they needed,” said Murray.
The closet has served over 33,000 people and has given out more than 306,000 pounds of clothes, which equates to over 118 tons to those in the community who needed it the most. And to think that this all started from a women's Bible study who were complaining about their pant sizes.
“We got started, honestly, the catalyst was a women's Bible study group. We were all complaining our jeans didn't fit and we should just swap clothes around and the next thing you knew we were doing some events,” said Murray.
During their years of service, they have encountered many personal stories of what Balison says is faith living.
“I've seen guys take off their shoes because somebody needed them more than they did. That will bring tears to your eyes. I mean, I think that's faith living,” said Balison.
The volunteers at Bethel Clothes Closet say they are just happy to serve. The closet is only open for two days. The next opportunity to come is on August 28 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.