Agency for homeless youth establishes ‘store’ to help outfit clients
By Susan Frick Carlman email@example.com January 4, 2013 11:54AM
"These are really nice!" said NCO transitional housing resident Vernon Houston, 18 from Chicago sorts through clothing at My Closet at the 360 Youth Services office in Naperville on Friday, January 4, 2013. The closet is seeking donations to fill out their space and be able to give kids in their programs proper clothing. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
to My Closet from yours
Donations of new or like-new clothing, especially current fashions suitable for teens and young adults, are very much needed at the new store recently established at 360 Youth Services.
The agency also could use a few more heavy-duty clothing racks for displaying the donated finery.
Clothing can be brought to 1305 W. Oswego Road in Naperville.
For more information, call 630-961-2992.
Updated: February 7, 2013 6:15AM
Sometimes, when young people turn to 360 Youth Services for help, they turn up with only the clothes on their backs — literally. Sometimes fresh out of foster care, teens often arrive lugging a single plastic trash bag that holds everything they own.
“A lot of the kids come in and they don’t have anything. They don’t have any money, and we don’t have any money,” said Debbie Carr, director of residential programs for the Naperville nonprofit, which focuses on prevention programs and provides shelter for 60 to 70 homeless teens and young adults annually.
Even though the clients frequently are living through difficult situations most people will never experience, their dignity remains intact. But sometimes they need a little help protecting it.
Carr, who noted that a lot of young people see a stigma in shopping at traditional thrift shops, thought a little discretion would help. That’s how the new store in the basement of 360 Youth Services came to be called My Closet.
“It sounds a lot cooler than saying, ‘I’m going shopping at St. Vincent DePaul,’” she said.
Before the place could be christened, however, it needed a home. Staff members for years had tried to figure out how they might put their clients into clothes that make them feel good about how they look.
“When you live in a community like Naperville or Lisle, you want to look good going to school,” said Lorri Nagle, the agency’s director of development.
Carr, who supervises the nonprofit’s group home for teenaged boys on the east side of Naperville, said her residents sometimes are down to their last hole-pocked and stained pair of socks. She knew they need more.
“I was trying to figure out a way to make this happen and find a small space where we could set up the clothing and (make it) pleasing to the eye,” Carr said.
The solution wound up right below their feet. The lower level of the organization’s Oswego Road offices was available — although at first glance it didn’t seem like the ideal spot. It was sort of dark and in disarray — but it was nothing a Boy Scout couldn’t fix. Carr connected with Riley Hoyt, who happened to be ready to take on his Eagle project.
“He just took a gross place and made it really nice,” she said.
Now decorated with cheery curtains bearing a geometric brown-and-blue pattern echoed in the painted concrete floor, the space contains hanging racks and bins that hold the small collection of donated clothes.
“The idea is to give them some privacy, so they can pick out what they want,” Nagle said.
While contributions are always appreciated, the apparel brought to 360 should be clothes teens want to be seen in.
“We want people to know, and be comfortable knowing, that when their teenagers grow out of these clothes and don’t want them, we’ll take them,” she said.
The 60 to 70 young people who access the services provided by the agency often need attractive, stylish things to wear for job interviews, or just to gain a sense of fitting in with their classmates.
“When you look good, you feel better about yourself,” Nagle said. “And you make better choices.”