The "Children's Closet" isn't much bigger than the name suggests. But that's not the point.
"If we can help, here we are," says Donna Riemer, director of compassion ministry for Alpine Chapel in Lake Zurich.
Contact information ( * required )
Don't be fooled -- lots of jeans, tops, shoes and other items carefully folded and sorted from infant to size 14/16 fill a small room in the church's office suite in a business park near the main facility.
Operating along the lines of the church's Alpine Sharing Room food bank, the clothing is provided free.
The stipulation is visitors take only what they need. The hope is they will replenish the supply with clothing their kids may outgrow, keeping the inventory ample and fresh.
And the goal is to let the community at large know "Children's Closet" is available as a resource.
"We're not a megachurch but a church has to do what they can within their means and not rely on the government," Riemer said.
Alpine, which will celebrate 30 years this fall, is a nondenominational church with a congregation of about 750 and an evolving mission to help where needed.
As the recession deepened, the church responded with programs on finding jobs, resume writing and getting out of debt, for example. But there was a segment that had unique issues.
"Those that are truly in need are the single moms out there," Riemer said.
Riemer, who herself was raised by a single mom and other leaders sharing the same background, met as a group to determine what could be done.
Last fall, a new ministry called Thrive was established to bring single moms together and provide support.
Twice a month, the families share a donated dinner at the church. Afterward, while kids play or do homework, moms listen to relevant speakers, such as a dietitian with tips on feeding kids healthy food on a budget or a social worker with advice on coping during chaotic times.
"A lot of the single moms are working full time. They don't get to network with the other moms," Riemer said. "They just kind of sigh, they exhale. 'Somebody cares.'"
The "Children's Closet", which opened about a month ago, was established after Riemer noticed moms exchanging kids' clothing and bringing in items that were no longer being used.
While the word is spreading, participation has been limited with more than enough to go around to anyone in need.
"It started as a vision to care for our single moms," she said. "Now, we're reaching out to the community -- we don't want to hoard it."
Call (847) 540-8280 to learn more about the Sharing Room and Children's Closet.