Pat Williams is a very busy woman.
In addition to serving as President of the Board of Angels’ Closet Charities, managing the facility which provides school, work, and special event clothing to high school students, spreading the word about their Chase grant competition, and everything else she does around town, Williams is gearing up for the annual Angel’s Closet fundraising tea to be held Oct. 2, 3 and 4.
She took a little time out of her schedule last week to provide a tour of Angel’s Closet and discuss the work of the charity which she founded in her living room several years ago. With her was Board Treasurer Camille Andreas who had stopped by to drop off some donations.
Angel’s Closet consists of two well-appointed boutique facilities – one for school clothes and one for business and special event wear, and a workroom where clothing is received and processed.
Located on the south side of Redlands East Valley High School, a little out of the way of the flow of traffic, students recommended by school counsellors and teachers from throughout the region shop by appointment with Angel’s Closet volunteers.
What they have to choose from is an immense selection of beautiful clothing, much of it new and donated by local businesses.
Said Williams, “Trisha from Nectar in Redlands brings new clothes and shoes, Agency Board Shop in Yucaipa does clothing drives and has brought many pairs of skater-style shoes. We’re not about hand-me-downs; we give the students stylish clothing to alleviate some stress so they can focus on academics and athletics; the things young people should focus on in high school.”
Gently-used items are dry cleaned or laundered. Everything’s pressed, and it’s all presented on racks and wall displays designated by size and gender as in a stylish retail store.
In addition, Angel’s Closet provides back-to-school necessities like a recent donation of 20 filled backpacks from Chicago Title.
There are also jewelry, purses, perfume and colognes, dental hygiene items and deodorants.
Travel-sized toiletries – a bag of which is provided to each shopper – are donated by individuals as well as by the congregation of House of God church.
IN THE SCHOOL clothing room, one corner features a portrait of a beautiful young blonde, REV alumnus Tara Conley who passed away several years ago while at college. A sign tells visitors that this is “Tara’s Corner.”
Williams explained that Tara’s family had asked that friends make donations to Angel’s Closet in lieu of flowers at her services and they donated her clothing to the charity.
“We did not have a lot of finances,” said Williams. “The family’s selfless generosity became such a blessing for Angel’s Closet and has inspired so many. Tara is helping her fellow students every day.”
In the work and special events shop, a number of suit jackets and pants hang.
“Seniors at many of the high schools must do job shadowing and are graded, in part, on their appearance,” said Andreas. “We always need mens suits and gently used dress shoes which can be worn for job seeking, as well as formal events. These kids start to enter adulthood and people expect a lot of them. They are supposed to grow up socially, but without the means to participate in school experiences, they are left behind.”
Added Williams, “These are also the kids that get ignored when it comes to donations. If you go through the mall at Christmastime and look at what’s left on the giving trees, it’s always for the older children. People forget high school kids are kids, too, and so many also take on the worries and responsibilities of their families that have been devastated by this economy.”
Andreas shared about a young man who was living under a freeway underpass. His counsellor, who was letting him in the gym to shower and eventually found a home placement for him, recommended him to Angel’s Closet.
“This was a good kid, a hard-working kid who didn’t do anything to warrant his circumstances. He ended up graduating with a scholarship. Many kids we see are straight-A students whose families are struggling with poverty,” said Andreas.
She further shared her admiration for the students they assist.
“They truly amaze me. They’re always very well-mannered and never ask for more than they absolutely need.”
Williams shared that many of the sudents and their parents have sent hand-written thank you notes.
“We cherish those,” she said.
IN ADDITION TO clothing and school supplies, Angel’s Closet assists seniors with graduation needs, such as caps and gowns for most local high schools, yearbooks, prom tickets, and school photos.
“Mario Cabrera, the owner of Mentone Photography Studio, said it was such a blessing for him to meet the young people and see how his work so touched them,” said Williams, adding that Cabrera had recently volunteered to provide photography services again this year.
“He is so kind and very generous,” she said.
Williams shared that another local photographer, Caroline McAllister, has also provided photography services.
Many other donations come from sponsors who anonymously “adopt” a senior.
“We are always seeking donors. The students write what they’d like to receive, but it’s really up to the donor. And we accept caps and gown from all the high schools,” said Andreas.
WILLIAMS AND ANDREAS also discussed their appreciation for the many volunteers who donate their time to Angel’s Closet. Some take home clothes to wash and iron. Others come in to press, sort, and hang items. A number of local Girl Scouts donate their time setting up the showrooms and working at fundraising events.
“We have a small board, but a large volunteer base,” said Williams, adding, “We pay no salaries; everyone is a volunteer. And the only fees we have are insurance and small operating expenses for utilities and the like.”
Added Andreas, “It’s not glamorous work, but it’s fun when you get working together and talking. You know you’re doing someting good.”
Although all donations are welcomed, the biggest needs are for shoes and dry cleaning services. Angel’s Closet, a 501(C)3, provides donation receipts.
Concluded Williams, “When the students look at you straight in the eye and tell you how much they appreciate the items, it’s often overwhelming. We feel honored and blessed to be able to help and we are so thankful to the whole community for their continued generous donations.”
Now that’s an angel.
The Angel’s Closet annual fundraising tea will be held at Martha Greene’s Eating Room, 107 E. Citrus Ave., Redlands. Call (909) 794-7987 to RSVP.
To vote for Angel’s Closet in the Chase Grant contest, go to htps://www.facebook.com/ChaseCommunityGiving/app_162065369655.