NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network) – In the pantheon of "casual holidays," National Secondhand Wardrobe Day ranks fairly low.
The Aug. 25th occasion doesn't easily lend itself to celebratory sales, like National Hamburger Day (May 28) or fun activities, like National Talk-Like-A-Pirate Day (Sept. 19). Thrifted clothing simply can't measure up to the chaotic potential of something like National Bring Your Dog to Work Day (June 26) or National Random Acts of Kindness Day (Feb. 17). Instead, National Secondhand Wardrobe Day serves as a gentle reminder to go through your closet and consider the thrift store instead of the mall the next time you get the urge to refresh your wardrobe. After all, clothing manufacturing is one of the bigger sources of pollution out there.
The holiday also brings an inherent bias. While some people with the means to purchase new clothes may need occasional reminders to donate and shop secondhand, other people in the same communities rely on thrifted and donated clothing not just on Aug. 25, but every day of the year.
In Jackson, Mississippi, Clothing Closet works to meet that community need, and invites Service Adventure participants to help. Clothing Closet, a program of Stewpot Community Services, accepts clothing donations from businesses and individuals, and makes them available free of charge to people in the community in need of attire for job interviews, work wear, or children's apparel. Service Adventure participants help organize the clothes, as well as staff the front desk, greeting clients and logging the clothing taken. Service Adventure, a year-long volunteer program for high school- and college-aged young adults, is a part of Mennonite Mission Network.
Risa Fukaya, a 2019-2020 Service Adventure participant with the Jackson unit, served with Clothing Closet as part of her placement. For three afternoons each week, she helped sort the donated items and put out seasonally appropriate pieces for display.
"I was always amazed by the amount of clothes that we had at Clothing Closet," she recalled. "But some clients took just one or two because they only took what they really loved. Now I often think if I really like what I'm wearing or what I'm about to purchase."
Situated in a small, red brick building across the street from Stewpot's food bank and community kitchen, Clothing Closet welcomes more than 100 individuals each month. The program is staffed by members of Virginia's Playhouse, another Stewpot program that offers day activities for seniors and individuals with mental disabilities. "The Clothing Closet provides the essentials for people." Fukaya said. "I always loved seeing moms with babies finding baby clothes."
While National Secondhand Wardrobe Day may only come around once every year, programs like Clothing Closet invite Service Adventure participants to help meet deeper community needs all year-round.