Community members in the 95361 and beyond will once again be treated to the Oakdale Community Closet program later this month. Celebrating its sixth anniversary, this year’s event will be hosted Saturday, Aug. 26 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Gene Bianchi Community Center, 110 S. Second Ave., Oakdale.
“You don’t have to be a family in need and you don’t have to be from Oakdale,” event co-founder and Oakdale Enrichment Society President Lisa Ballard said. “We have families come from Riverbank. We don’t check ID’s or addresses. There’s plenty for everybody.”
“This is really Lisa’s baby. She’s really the one who spearheads this every year with 200 volunteers. We serve over 400 families each year,” co-founder and fellow OES board member Cher Bairos shared.
It was a simple Facebook post made by Bairos in 2018 that brought the duo together. Looking for a place to take her own children’s clothing, the post quickly exploded and the two, along with a former member, launched the free clothing distribution.
The event is presented by Oakdale Enrichment Society and is largely made possible due to the donations, as well as the committed volunteers who not only work that day, but the days leading up to the event.
Community members interested in donating gently used clothing for the event can do so between the hours of 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. from Monday, Aug. 21 through Thursday, Aug. 24.
“People just pull up, we’ll have all our volunteers in the parking lot,” Bairos said of the donation times. “There will probably be a sign, they’ll have their carts and just take it (donated clothing items) from the cars.”
Helpers are still being sought to aid throughout the effort.
“We’re always looking for volunteers,” Bairos continued, noting that students as well as adults can sign up to volunteer at enrichoakdale.org.
As a bonus and a thank you to the volunteers, the Oakdale Lions Club will be grilling hamburgers for the volunteers on Saturday, and bottled water and chips will be provided as well.
“New and gently used clothes. If it has stains, throw it away, we don’t want it,” Bairos shared of what can be donated. “Holes, throw it away, we don’t want it. Everything gets sized. Lisa has her team of 200 volunteers.”
Other items for donation can include backpacks, jackets, shoes and accessories (such as handbags, hats and scarves). Clothing racks, as well as hangers are also something the organizers could use for the event. They said that racks would be helpful to have and they would be happy to have them on loan.
“We’ve been trying to hang the dresses and hang all the nice stuff,” Ballard said. “They do a fabulous job. Clothing racks, we can return them if they let us use them or they can donate them for future years.”
Bags have been donated by Grocery Outlet, as well as Ace Hardware. The organizers also encourage shoppers to bring their own bags if they’d like and emphasize there is no limit for what they can take.
“You can bring whatever bag you want,” Bairos said. “Like for me, I would bring luggage because you can just zip it up and walk out. There is plenty for everybody.”
The duo described the annual Clothes Closet initiative as a true community event which not only brings a large number of people together, but also nurtures youth, both in the area of giving and learning to be of help to others.
“It is a lot of work,” Ballard confirmed of the annual event, “but the joy at the end and seeing the smiles and the thank you’s are wonderful.”
The organizers believe this event will continue for years to come, as it’s apparent how meaningful and helpful it has become to the community.
“To see their eyes light up, like I can really take another bag?” Bairos added. “They get to get fun stuff, too. It’s just so worth it.”
For individuals wanting to do more than volunteer or donate clothing to the event, financial donations may also be made to Oakdale Enrichment Society to help with costs for future events.
“Events cost money, so yes, if people want to continue to see those events we need money,” Bairos said in regards to financial donations. “Anything helps. I mean five bucks is five bucks. We are a 501(c)(3).”
As for the clothes that go unclaimed, the team has a plan for that as well. At the conclusion of the event, churches, service groups and county facilities which help those in need are offered the opportunity for the unclaimed clothing.
“Any church groups going down to Mexico, contact us for the kids’ clothes. We’d be more than happy to help to make arrangements for them to come in,” Ballard said.
“We are so blessed that it has grown from the first year, to the second to the third and now here we are for the sixth. It’s on the map of Oakdale,” she continued. “People know it and it will continue on because Oakdale looks forward to that.”
And, again, they stressed anyone in need throughout the area is welcome to attend and take home some good, gently used clothing and accessories.
“We just look forward to it. We’re excited for the ribbon cutting at 8:30 a.m., for anyone who would like to join us, and we want to thank the Lions Club for always volunteering,” Bairos said.