More Than Clothing
Rochester UMC’s Community Closet reaches out to its residents in need
By Jesse N. Love
At the edge of Thurston County lies the town of Rochester, Wash. It’s a small community of about 1800 – and within this ‘bedroom community’ lies Rochester United Methodist Church. One of its signature ministries is the Community Closet – collecting and providing clean clothing to people in need. This ministry played a key part in providing clothing to those affected by the floods in Lewis County in 2007.
The Rochester Community Closet is open on Mondays, from 4-6 p.m.; Wednesdays 3-5 p.m.; and Fridays 10 a.m. – Noon; and closed on Holidays. The Closet receives many of its donations from the local community. But, they also have received donations from companies such as Costco (clothing), TransAlta (grants for clothing, facilities), and Great Wolf Lodge (mattresses). The Closet washes clothes on site at the Church and has a furniture warehouse in Centralia.
June Gelvin serves as manager for the Community Closet and has served for almost six years. Gelvin anticipates that around 30 families will drop by when they open their doors the following day. Of those in the community who visit, around 2/3 are white and 1/3 are Mexican, ranging between the ages of 30-60. Around 4-5 volunteers help manage the Closet when it is open for a few hours.
Gene Weaver is the lay leader and serves on the Board of Trustees for Rochester UMC. Weaver shares that the Community Closet was open for almost 119 days in 2012. With approximately 1500 people signing in, this represents about 5100 family members receiving support and over 29,000 articles of clothing distributed.
In neighboring Lewis County, there is a high rate of unemployment (13.4% according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics). Having a clothing bank like Rochester’s Community Closet serves to provide not only resources in the community, but also offers a spiritual-emotional need as well. Heather Sparkman, pastor of RUMC, feels that the Community Closet is a ministry that nurtures relationships outside of the four walls of the Church. “We are in constant contact with our community, always asking how we can make a difference,” shares Sparkman. “Asking how we can support or have a compassionate response to the needs – the needs for school supplies, backpacks, or if someone is moving into a house and they don’t have anything – the people here will respond.”
The Community Closet ministry at Rochester UMC has also been a great way to welcome new people to church. “It’s a draw not just for people to come to the Community Closet, but for folks searching for a church. We might be one of those places people come to because of our activity here and in the community,” shares Sparkman.
The Community Closet at Rochester UMC continues to provide resources for the people of this town and works to respond as it is called by God to serve the spiritual needs of this community.
Jesse N. Love serves as the print & publications manager for the PNWUMC.
Clothing Closet – Rochester UMC