POWHATAN – When the Clothes Closet operated by the Woman’s Club of Powhatan closed in mid-2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a lost resource in Powhatan for people on a tight budget who need to clothe their families.
As months – and then more than a year – went by, Sandra Cowles, a club member and volunteer at the store, couldn’t stop thinking about that need that wasn’t being filled locally in the community anymore.
While she couldn’t see salvaging the whole concept, Cowles of Powhatan started thinking about one area where it might be possible to help – children’s clothes.
“After the Clothes Closet closed I started thinking we should open up a Closet particularly for children because I think they were the hardest hit during COVID,” she said.
After months of planning and people stepping up to help, that is exactly what is going to happen.
On June 7, Just Kids, a shop selling gently used clothing for children from newborns to size 8 will open in the youth building of May Memorial Baptist Church, located at 3922 Old Buckingham Road.
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The shop will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays and sell clothing and shoes only for $2 a bag full. Proceeds from the shop will be used to purchase special items like winter coats for local families.
The Rev. Michael Edwards, senior pastor of May Memorial Baptist Church, said Cowles, who is a church member, reached out to him in early 2022 with the request for May Memorial to house the shop. He was impressed that she didn’t present him with a concept but with an actionable plan.
All of the clothes would be items from consignment shops that didn’t sell within a set time, which Cowles had already arranged, negating the need to constantly ask the public for clothing donations. This also helps ensure a consistently higher quality inventory. However, monetary donations are welcome. Eventually they might seek volunteers from the public, but at least in the beginning, church members and former Clothes Closet workers have been stepping up to volunteer.
“She is a very detailed oriented person who can see something from an idea to it actually taking place,” Edwards said. “Honestly by the time she brought it to me she had done a lot of the ground work.”
Edwards and Cowles went to the church’s leadership council, which approved the plan. In April, a team was formed consisting of Cowles, Sophie Edwards, Laura Young, Becky Thomas and Nancy Wood to coordinate getting the project started.
Edwards said he appreciated that it quickly became an intergenerational project, with volunteers ranging from high school to senior citizens stepping up to help by cleaning the space, building racks, developing a logo, organizing volunteers, sorting and hanging clothes, and more. Over the weekend, volunteers spent hours sorting clothing Cowles has been picking up to make sure the store had a nice inventory when it opened.
While Just Kids extends beyond May Memorial to being more of a community effort, Edwards said he is still happy that so many members have stepped up to help make sure children in the community have quality clothes.
“We believe that our calling as Christians, it is more important what we do in the community than what we do in this building,” he said. “We feel like our Christian faith is lived out outside of our sanctuary more than in it. Our calling is in our community and we want to be the best church we can be for the community.”
Cowles has no doubt Just Kids has the potential to have a very positive impact on the community for those families who truly need help clothing their children.
“Just Kids mission project is one way of serving those in need. We want to reach those in our community who are truly in need of children’s clothing, those families who have members who are unemployed, experiencing health issues, live on low income and children who are in foster care,” she said.
For more information, call the May Memorial church office at 804-598-3098.