Career Closet helps people dress their best
The Career Clothing Closet started as a pet project by Donna Jo Smith, the former center manager of the Spokane Community Colleges Colville campus.
The Closet is now run by Jennifer Miller, Library Tech at the Colville campus, who is heading into her fourth year managing the service.
“I think Donna Jo Smith just recognized that in a rural center like this, we have a lot of students that are looking for jobs, working on getting internships and they might need something to wear,” said Miller.
When Miller first began working with the Closet the clothing selection was sparse. She said the Closet was really more of a rack.
Now there's not an inch of space in the room that doesn't display clothing.
Miller said one of her priorities for the Closet was making sure it's stocked with a wide variety of clothing.
There is a men's section, which could always use more donations, a plus-size rack that offers sizes 16-24, scrubs for medical students and winter jackets and coats. While fewer in numbers, shoes, belts and tank tops are also offered as supplies last.
A bountiful Closet would not be possible without the partnership between the Closet and Habitat for Humanity Colville Valley Partners.
Every week Habitat donates professional clothing to the Closet.
According to Charlene Summers, who works in Habitat's clothing department, when Habitat heard about the college's Closet, and that it was lacking supplies, they stepped in with donations.
“We just gather up what we can and give it to them,” said Summers, noting that clothes are pulled from their sales floor each week.
“It's very nice clothes,” Summers remarked. “We like to find someone in need who can use them. The college was the perfect place for that.”
Whatever clothing donated to the Closet that cannot be used for professional wear is taken to the Seventh-Day Adventist Clothing Bank at 138 E Cedar Loop, Colville.
Miller said that way it's a “win-win.”
The Career Clothing Closet also receives donations from the community, and it could always use more.
Donations can be brought to the main office of the Colville campus at 985 S Elm St., Colville.
“I'm just somebody who really likes to help; I consider this my service work,” Miller said.
Most of Miller's time spent on the Closet is done after work and on the weekends. During these hours, she works on labeling each item's size for easy viewing, ironing the clothes, organizing and rearranging items as needed.
The closest's contents “ebb and flow,” and Miller said sometimes she'll have an influx of shoes and other times she won't have a single pair.
Any type of career clothing can be donated to the Closet: shoes, slacks, jackets, button ups, blouses and dresses.
In a perfect cycle of supply and demand, Miller said she envisions a place where people could donate quality clothing and shoes as a way to give back to the community. In turn, those donations would give the people seeking their way into the professional community the means to achieve their own levels of success.
New items to the Closet are featured on a rack outside of the Closet, next to the college's official spokesperson, Cee Cee Mann, the clothing model.
Free for all
The mission of the Career Clothing Closet is to create a space for anyone to find professional clothing free from the judgment and preconceived stigmas surrounding a person’s reason for need.
The Closet is open to anyone in the community.
A person's age or financial situation does not matter, anyone can take clothes from the Closet.
“In a nutshell, we are trying to create an endless cycle of donated abundance, serving to lift up others actively seeking to improve the stability of their own lives,” explained Miller. “This is our mission.”
Anyone in need is encouraged to use the service. No one's needs will be assessed, and no one will be asked for proof of need.
The Career Clothing Closet is a service Miller said she'd like to see used more. So far, most visitors to the Closet are students. This is most likely because they're the ones most aware that it exists.
According to Miller, the Closet has a high turnover. On average, each week there are 50 empty hangers.
“I think that's excellent,” said Miller.
Miller said Colville's Rural Resources and WorkSource offices are aware of the program and can recommend it to their clients.
The Closet is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“People can come in and shop at their own leisure,” Miller said. “Nobody is going to ask you questions or hassle you or anything.”
If anyone needs help assembling an outfit, Miller is more than happy to lend a hand. She can usually be found in the college's library.
“Your outfit is everything, especially when you're going out to look for a job or going somewhere you need to dress nice,” noted Miller.