Dundee Township gives residents a place to stop, shop for donated clothing
Down the hall from the Dundee Township supervisor's office, rooms that were vacant for years now are filled with racks of clothing for infants to adults, school-age children to business professionals.
The hallways are lined with coats, hats, scarves and gloves -- anything to keep residents warm in the winter. And in a separate room, piles of clothing wait to be sorted and made available for those in need.
The Dundee Township Cares Community Closet was the brainchild of Supervisor Trish Glees, who noticed some community members starting jobs or attending interviews in disheveled clothing. She began collecting suits and other professional outfits last summer and gave them away to anyone who stopped by her office.
It wasn't long before the volunteer-run initiative expanded to provide everyday clothing and other necessities -- shoes, jackets and more -- for residents of all ages. The township now has a space within the former Summit School building at 611 E. Main St., East Dundee, to store all the donations and put them on display for visitors to browse.
"The idea is that when you're coming in here, you feel like you're in a store, like you're shopping," Glees said.
The Cares Community Closet is a community effort, Glees said, pointing to the various organizations and government agencies that have played a role. The program really took off, she said, after partnering with Lily's Community Closet, a team of volunteers from Community Unit District 300 that aims to donate clothing to local families.
The group hosted two pop-up events last year that were very successful, said volunteer Amy Seibert, whose 12-year-old daughter, Lily, came up with the idea. But with piles of leftover clothing and no place to store them, the items were given to Goodwill.
Partnering with Dundee Township has allowed the clothing drive efforts to grow beyond what either group expected.
"It's just a shock because I didn't think it'd get this many clothes, and now we actually have a building for it," said Lily Seibert, a student at Dundee Middle School. "When we first did a pop-up, we filled our van with clothing, and we thought that was a lot. Compared to this, it's nothing."
The Cares Community Closet takes up four former classrooms in a portion of the building owned by the village of East Dundee. To help accommodate the program's growth, the village is allowing the township to use the second-floor rooms for free until they are sold or redeveloped.
"Why should it sit empty when you've got a great program that it could be used for?" said Trustee Scott Andresen, who checked out the space Thursday during an open house.
The township made some improvements to the previously unused rooms, such as adding electricity and installing drop ceilings. Much of the work and materials were donated or offered at a discounted price, Glees said.
Five to 10 families typically visit the community closet each week, she said, though that number grows as word spreads. Shoppers must be Dundee Township residents and show valid identification for all family members receiving clothing items.
The closet is open 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays, 5 to 7 p.m. Thursdays, and 1 to 4 p.m. Fridays. Residents also can make an appointment.
Donations of clean and gently used clothing are accepted from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every weekday, except holidays, at the supervisor's office.
"It's really exciting to see the support," Amy Seibert said. "People are really happy to be giving their clothes to someplace that will give them directly to their neighbors in need."