When two local women disagreed with God’s Closet closing its doors to the public, they took matters into their own hands.
“I think all people should be able to be warm. Everybody deserves the same things. Just because you’re using drugs doesn’t mean you don’t deserve warm stuff,” Katy Smith, 34, said Friday.
Smith and her co-worker, Dana Marin, 26, said they were upset God’s Closet was no longer serving everyone in the community.
Community House on Broadway announced last month that God’s Closet, a center that gave away free clothing to anyone who needed it, now would only serve clients who attend the shelter’s mental health clinic and clients from various social agencies — such as the Drug Abuse Prevention Center and the Emergency Support Shelter — through the use of vouchers.
The action came after shelter Executive Director Frank Morrison said too many people were exchanging the free clothing for drugs. The shop is moving to the shelter’s new mental health facility on 14th Avenue and the area that occupied God’s Closet will become a play area for the shelter’s children.
The women, who are both financial workers at the Department of Social and Human Services in Kelso, said they wanted to help people who no longer have access to the free clothing.
On Jan.28, they launched a Facebook page, called “Hat me with your best sock,” asking for donations of scarves, hats, gloves and socks.
Last week they distributed more than 50 items of clothing in Kelso and Longview. Some scarves and hats were tied around light poles while others were sitting on sculptures.
A scarf wrapped around an owl sculpture on the Allen Street Bridge on Friday had a label on it that read, “I’m not lost. It’s getting cold out; take me if you need me!”
Since launching the project, the women said they’ve received about 75 donated items from family and friends.
“I love it because some people just can’t help themselves and there are people who want to help,” Smith said.
Marin said she got the idea to distribute the warm clothing around town after reading about a similar effort on the East Coast.
“I read an article on Facebook about this being done in other places, and I told Katy we should do it,” she said, adding that she chose the project’s name because it was “fun and catchy.”
The response the women received after launching their Facebook was overwhelming, they said.
“It was overnight. We had at least 100 people encouraging us on the first day and 20 people saying they had things to donate. ..We’re just flying by the seat of our pants. We’re having fun,” Marin said.
The women plan to continue the effort until it gets warmer, they said. So far, they said they are enjoying using their lunch breaks to distribute the clothing.
“I love to help people. If I can help I have no reason not to,” Marin said.