By Jordan Puckett
The Bethel Ministerial Association operates a free clothing store on West Plane Street in Bethel. The store is run by a group of volunteers and is open to the public.
A wooden sign on the sidewalk and brightly colored blouses in the window attract passersby to the store. Upon entering, visitors will see the same sort of bright colors hanging around the ceiling. On the ground are racks of clothes of all types, like a mini department store. Close to the front is a shelf of men’s shoes, as well as a rack of men’s shirts, both for casual and semi-formal occasions. A large rack of women’s shoes sits on one of the side walls, filled with high heels, sandals, flats, and athletic shoes. Clothes for toddlers and infants sit on shelves in the back, with children’s shoes near the front. The store also has socks, undergarments and coats.
Besides clothes, the free store also offers other items, such as belts, handbags, ties, books, DVDs, curtains, washcloths, towels, pots and pans, and even toys for toddlers. While most people go for the clothes, many walk out with some of these other items as well.
Marie Pelfrey, one of the regular volunteers, explained the workings of the free store. She said people can only come once per month. During this one visit, a person can take 3 outfits per family member. Certain items are limited to one per person, such as shoes and men’s dress pants. Visitors to the store sign a paper upon entering and exiting. This is so the volunteers can keep track of who has been there each month. When asked if there were any limitations on who could receive the free clothing, Pelfrey said there are none. Anyone can go to the store and benefit from the free clothing.
Many people visit the store each day. One woman said the clothes she finds in the store are always clean. She said the store has “better than garage-sale” clothing. She visits the store once every couple months to get items for herself. Another woman said she always finds “really nice clothes.” She visits the store monthly to pick out clothes for her family.
Contributions to the store are always welcome and appreciated. To donate, bring all items to the store during business hours. In terms of volunteers, Pelfrey said the store “can always use people.” Volunteers help sort, clean, and fold clothes, as well as assist visitors and organize the store.
The free clothing store has been open in Bethel since 2003, running solely on donations and the hard work of its volunteers ever since. The store is open 1-4 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturdays. It can be found at 234 W. Plane Street.