Clothes Closet now accepting donations

Policies and procedures explained

For over 40 years, the nonprofit, Community Clothes Closet, has thrived in downtown Hettinger, providing affordable clothes and donations to the Adams County community.

Frank Turner

In 1977, with the help of volunteers, pastor Torkelson of the Lutheran church initiated the thrift store. Since then, the nonprofit has steadily kept growing over the years.
In the beginning, the store was only open a couple of days a week and only had 14 volunteers. Steadily over time, the business has become a staple of goodwill in Hettinger.
Today, the business is open five days a week and has roughly 60 volunteers helping keep the doors open.
Like any other business, the Community Clothes Closet has to keep its lights on and pay rent, however once the bills are paid, the rest of the profit goes straight back into the Adams County community.
Current board president Virginia Earsley estimated that the Clothes Closet donates over $30,000 to the Adams County every year to things like the local fire department and school trips.
Earsley said that, through the years, the goal of the Clothes Closet has remained the same; to provide for those in need while benefitting the community.
“The services that the Community Clothes Closet provides are crucial,” said Earsley. “People have said that they would be lost without this store.”
When traveling, Earsley explained that people in surrounding areas rave about the Clothes Closet. Earsley attributed the nonprofit’s success to the store’s comfortable layout, cleanliness, and affordability.
“It’s cheap. Thrift stores in the area like Bowman, New England, and Dickson are all priced higher,” said Earsley. “We don’t want to make a ton of money. We want to make it so we can get rid of the stuff, help people out, and we can use that money to donate to the community.”
According to Earsley, the Clothes Closet receives an overwhelming amount of donated clothes every month. She said that it is not unusual for the store to receive roughly 20 full totes of clothes in a week.
It all depends on what’s happening in the community. After the city wide rummage sale, the Clothes Closet temporarily stopped accepting donations. They have since started accepting donations again.
Earsley explained, “You should have seen it after the city wide rummage sale. That’s why we had to say, ‘no more donations until we get caught up.’ I have never seen so much stuff. It took us two weeks to get caught up. We absolutely could not fit anything more.”
With the sheer volume of stuff entering the store, Earsley said that the store does its best to utilize everything it can. Old comforters are given to West River Vet Clinic to be used as bedding. Cotton T-shirts are torn up and sold as rags.
Although they recycle as much as they can, there is only a limited amount of space in the store. The storage rooms are full. At any given time, hundreds of boxes line the walls of the back rooms.
“We are outgrowing the store,” she said.
When the Clothes Closet runs out of physical space, they box up the excess clothes and ship them out the back door. The excess clothes are shipped out and recycled into rugs or donated to other thrift stores.
Even still, Earsley said that there are clothes that are simply not useable. Cleanliness at the Clothes Closet is a priority. Clothes that are smoky, covered in pet hair, or musty get thrown immediately into the dumpster, according to Earsley.
“It goes out. Period. We don’t want to stink up the store or our excess clothes,” she explained. “We can’t expect volunteers to take dirty clothes home and clean them.”
According to Earsley, the Clothes Closet’s strategies have been working. The nonprofit brings in roughly $150 per day and the store has only continued to grow. She encouraged anyone interested in volunteering to stop by the store.
“It’s the best place in the world to work,” said Earsley. “We just have the best volunteers. I tell you what, I’m just in heaven when I’m in the Clothes Closet.”