On a recent hot summer afternoon, a team of volunteers packed into the back room of Moorpark’s Faith Lutheran Church to sort through piles of shirts, pants and sweatshirts.
The group of volunteers, both young and old, wasn’t slowed by the rising temps of the stuffy room but continued to work together to organize the clothing that crowded the small workspace.
The clothing, left behind by students in the Conejo Valley and Moorpark unified school districts, was being prepared for Rachael’s Closet, a volunteer-based program that provides clothing, school supplies and guidance to foster families in Ventura County. The program is funded and managed by the Ventura County Foster Parent Association.
“As Christians we want to support the children. The donations are a way that members of Faith Lutheran Church can reach out and serve our community, said Carrie Breitung, a four-year member of the church.
Three years ago, Breitung, a substitute teacher, began asking what schools did with clothes in their lost-and-found bins at the end of each semester.
“I found out that they just get tossed or brought elsewhere,” she said.
With help from Sylvia Laabs, a nine-year member of the church, Breitung asked if the church could collect the clothes, water bottles and lunchboxes from the two schools districts to donate to Rachael’s Closet twice a year.
“Before Christmas and at the end of the school year we will take any unclaimed lost-and-found items and then we launder them, we sort them by size and hang them on hangers,” she said.
All members of the congregation take part in the process. Some take a bag of clothing to wash at home, while others, like Breitung, take mounds of clothes to local laundromats.
“In that process you decide what is and isn’t worth saving. If there is a broken zipper or holes or stains, we toss it,” Breitung said. “We want the kids to have quality and, believe me, there is plenty of quality stuff here.”
After washing the clothes, volunteers spend days organizing the outfits by size and hanging each article of clothing on its own hanger.
“It’s a huge service to (Rachael’s Closet) to not only donate the clothing, but to sort them,” Breitung said. “They need stuff hung up because they get donations, but it’s not organized. . . . They’re so overwhelmed.”
Because Rachel’s Closet considers itself “a safe space” for those it serves, organizers don’t publish its location. Instead, anyone interested in donating to the organization or receiving clothes should call (805) 285-3790 or email email@example.com.
This summer, Faith Lutheran Church donated 102 bags of laundered, organized clothing to Rachael’s Closet, along with boxes of clean water bottles, lunch bags and shoes.
The church hosts monthly “Undies Sundays,” where members bring in new underwear and socks to donate to the organization.
Breitung said, “Throughout the year some of us will go to Rachael’s Closet and volunteer too.”