Woodward, Okla. —
In the last couple of months, the Joseph's Coat clothing ministry has given away hundreds of outfits to people in need.
While the organization is glad to be helping so many people, this busy time means some of their clothing racks and bins have been nearly emptied. Now the ministry is reaching out to the public to ask for donations to help restock its inventory.
According to Patti Waibel, a volunteer with the clothing ministry, there has been "a huge increase in the number of people coming for clothing."
Waibel said a record number of 138 families visited Joseph's Coat in October and around 100 families were served in November. She said December is "proving busy as well," with several families visiting the ministry's "store" at 417 Main St. each Tuesday and Thursday.
"A family might be a single person, or a group with 4 or 5 children," she said.
And as part of the program, Waibel each family is allowed to visit the clothing store once every 30 days and select up to 3 outfits per person in the family.
This means that even if every family only had one person, the clothing ministry has still given out a significant amount of clothes in the last couple of months.
"Take that 138 and multiply it by 3 and you will see how many items of clothing could have been taken," Waibel said.
And that's just regular clothing items such as shirts and pants.
Another volunteer Merry Springer said that people can also pick out underwear and socks, one pair of shoes, one set of pajamas, one coat, and other specialty items, "if we have it available."
But, she said, often "stuff like that goes quickly."
With the recent cold temperatures, Joseph's Coat is currently in need of heavy winter coats for both men and women. Springer said that donations of hats, gloves and scarves would also be appreciated.
But it's not just the seasonal items that are needed, she said.
"Right now we're really low on baby items, tops and bottoms," she said. "We're running really low on infant sizes 3T and down."
Waibel went even further and said that all children's clothing is needed now, "from newborn to size 16, in boys and girls."
Inventory of some men's items are also running low, including jeans from size 30 to 36 waist and insulated coveralls for men, she said. Even the bins for men's underwear were almost empty as of Tuesday.
"And we just filled them up the other day," Springer said. "That shows just how quickly those things go."
While baby clothes, coats, and men's items are the current big needs for the clothing ministry, Springer said really all items are needed and appreciated.
Especially since families can return each month to get more items.
"Any clothing items that anybody wants to donate are always welcome," she said.
However, she said the church does have a couple of preferences when donating to Joseph's Coat.
"It's nice if the items are clean and in good condition," Springer said. "And for socks and underwear it's nice if they're new and not used; I think most people can understand that."
As for who will receive the items, Springer said Joseph's Coat offers the clothes to "anyone who needs them."
"We have no requirements and we don't ask for any financial information," she said. "We take people's word for it that when they come in here, they need help. And that's what we're here for, to help."
While the organization doesn't require financial information, Springer said families are asked to provide some basic information as part of the registration process for the clothing service.
She said this includes the number of children in the family and their ages, the names of all family members and the family's address.
This information is used "basically as a way to get to know people," she said.
It is also used to help volunteers keep track of when families come in to get items, as "a way to control the inventory," she said.
Springer then explained why Joseph's Coat places a limit on the number of items that people may take during each visit to the ministry.
"Because if we give one person 20 things, then the next person might not get anything," she said.
As the ministry's client numbers from the last couple of months have shown, there are always people in need, Springer said.
Whether it's a family that had to "move all of a sudden or lost their home in a fire" or facing any number of other problems, she said, "The need is always there, but people may not realize it."
That's why community support through the donation of clothing items is so important, she said, because there is that constant need.
Besides donating clothes, there are other ways you can help Joseph's Coat.
"We could always use more bags," Springer said.
Clients use the bags and plastic sacks to carry home their selections after visiting the ministry, she said.
In addition, Springer said additional helping hands are always welcome.
She said that volunteers are essential to the continuance of the ministry as volunteers are the ones who do everything from helping to sort and hang donated clothes to helping clients with registration and sacking up their items.
For those interested in volunteering with Joseph's Coat, Springer said, "they can just come on down on Tuesday or Thursday, and whoever is here, we'll put them to work; there's always something to do."
Joseph's Coat is open each Tuesday and Thursday from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., during which time clients can come pick up clothes and donors can drop off items.
For those clients or donors who can't come during those times, they can make other arrangements by calling the Joseph's Coat hotline at (580) 334-1957.