COVENTRY – The founders of Noah’s Closet this week said they were amazed they’ve come this far in 15 years.
What started as a small closet idea to help local families save money while outfitting their young children has blossomed into a shop with regional appeal to donate and sell gently-used children’s goods.
Noah’s Closet will mark its anniversary with a public event at its space in Second Congregational Church, 1746 Boston Turnpike, from 9 am to 1 pm Saturday.
Activities planned include raffles, refreshments, a story time and treats for any children who attend.
The idea for the shop first came from two church members, Kim Cabral and Patricia Belekwicz, who wanted to create a gently-used clothing and toy shop for local children.
It took a great deal of planning to get open, they said this week. And during the first three years, they saw the need was so great, the shop continued to grow.
That meant Belekwicz and Cabral needed additional help with the store, which now has many dedicated volunteers, along with a board headed by Marion Loferski, who keeps the shop running smoothly.
“I wanted all the ladies in the church to be part of this. They were excited to do this. They have many volunteers, dedicated volunteers every week that come in and go through all the donations, ”Belekwicz said.
Along with serving the surrounding community by selling clothing, baby equipment and children’s toys, Noah’s Closet also used their proceeds to help those in need.
Local children were sent to summer camp, and a voucher program with the Coventry Human Services Department was set up where free clothing, shoes, and coats for local families in need could be had. Shoes were also sent to children in Ecuador, as well as many other organizations serving the poor. Today the focus is more home-based, as proceeds go directly to keeping the shop running and support Second Congregational Church programs.
Loferski said the process that she and the volunteers go through to ensure the donated clothes have no major damages, such as spots or tears, is extensive.
“Each person has a different department. (Some) work on toys… I sort of work with the clothes, and someone would bring clothes in. We have a lady that sorts them, ”Loferski said. “The ones we are going to keep get set aside and then we have a crew of three to five… that work on the clothes – one tags them, one marks, and then one hangs them on the hangers so they have gone through five eyes. ”
When asked if she ever thought that Noah’s Closet would make it to 15 years, Belekwicz said no, she never imagined this day.
“I never thought it would happen. Kim and I were like, ‘yeah, we think this is a good idea’ and it took off – it just took off, “she said.
“It was the right place, the right time that it worked, and it was good,” Loferski added.
Loferski said they appreciate both the volunteers and the customers who continue to shop at the store.
There’s a crew of “dedicated workers and dedicated customers,” she said, adding that she works in the shop most Saturdays and knows many of the customers by name.
Sometimes, Loferski said she’d be working in the back room and hear a customer shout out a goodbye to her if they can’t see her.
“It’s a very warm, caring community,” she said.
As for the anniversary event, “it is giveaway time, and for people in the community to come and see what we are and what we have done so that you can see how it has evolved over the years,” Loferski said.
Deidre Montague covers the towns of Vernon and Stafford.