Need is driving the decision to open the Clothing Room at St. John Lutheran Church in Madison, according to the Rev. Shelly Gehring, associate pastor.
"We've been getting tons of calls asking if the Clothing Room would be open," Gehring explained. "We have been discerning from that a strong need for the Clothing Room ministry."
Consequently, the St. John Clothing Room will be reopening on July 6 with new procedures in place. Donations will be accepted on Mondays between 12-6 p.m. Shoppers who place orders by 6 p.m. on Mondays can pick up clothing items on Thursdays between 3-6 p.m.
The procedures are not intended to inconvenience either donors or shoppers, but rather were put in place to ensure the safety of both volunteers and community members.
"We're not holding worship services at St. John because we cannot maintain six-foot social distancing. We would severely limit the number of people who could attend," Gehring said.
The same situation exists in the Clothing Room; the area is not large enough to maintain social distancing. However, since a need for the ministry exists, options for reopening have been explored and discussed in recent weeks. During that process, the committee overseeing the ministry learned about procedures being used by another church with a clothing room that seemed to comply with CDC guidelines and parameters established by the church council.
"We decided that was the best method for reopening this ministry," Gehring said.
Members of the public will not be entering the church. On Mondays, during the designated hours, individuals will be met at the door of the church by volunteers with bins into which the donors can place their clothing items.
"All you have to do is drive up and they meet you at the door with the bins," Gehring said.
The donations will be placed in an unfinished portion of the basement for a week before being sorted and processed.
Individuals who wish to access this community resource are asked to call the church at 256-4855 and indicate what they need, specifying the size. Volunteers will then collect the requested clothing items from among items available. These will be boxed and labeled for pick-up.
Although individuals can call at any time to place an order, those who call between 12-6 p.m. on Mondays may have the opportunity to discuss their order with a volunteer. Orders received after the deadline will be filled the following week.
"That's in order to give us enough time to fill the orders and be ready by Thursday afternoon," Gehring explained.
She noted that while volunteers will make every effort to fulfill requests, they can only make selections from among the items that are currently available.
"There's no guarantee that we'll have what they want or need," she said.
In addition to limiting access, other precautions are being taken to ensure public safety. All volunteers will be wearing gloves and face masks while working with clothing items and will be using hand sanitizer.
"We're doing what we can to make sure we're keeping everybody safe on both sides," Gehring said.