For the second time in two years, St. John Lutheran Church in Madison is reopening the Community Clothing Room in January. Beginning Jan. 7, the Clothing Room will be open weekly on Thursdays from 1-4 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
"We have an incredible amount of clothes and a fair assortment of shoes and household goods," said Lynn Graves, a church member who serves on the committee responsible for that ministry. "They can pick up what they need. It's all free."
Following the September 2019 flood, which destroyed not only the Clothing Room but also other church property, the basement was remodeled with the goal of providing an improved experience for those who use the Clothing Room. However, within months after it reopened in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the region and the Clothing Room was again closed when the church stopped holding services.
Later in the year, recognizing the need in the community, church volunteers attempted to resume the ministry. Community members were asked to call, indicate what they needed, and pick up the items selected for them by volunteers outside the building.
"That was not satisfactory for anyone," Graves said. People lost their anonymity. "Not everyone wants to be known as someone who shops at the Clothing Room."
This time, shoppers will be able to select their own items, but some precautions are being taken to ensure the basement resource remains safe for both shoppers and volunteers.
Shoppers are being asked to use the north door to reduce contact with others who may be using church facilities during those hours. Even though the number of new COVID-19 cases is currently declining in South Dakota, the state Department of Health continues to recommend organizations follow CDC guidelines which recommend limiting the number of people in a given area at any one time.
"The north door is seldom used, so they will have access to the Clothing Room without going through other areas," Graves indicated. "We will have someone at the door directing them downstairs."
Shoppers will also be given directions when they reach the lower level.
All visitors are required to wear a mask in order to use the Clothing Room. Masks will be provided for individuals who don't have one to wear. Visitors are also asked to use hand sanitizer.
The number of shoppers using the Clothing Room will be limited to four at any given time. This is an extension of precautions the church council is taking to ensure the safety of members who have resumed worshipping together.
"Our council has been extremely careful as far as requiring social distancing and masks," Graves said.
Because the number of visitors at any given time is limited, families are asked not to bring children. When possible, it would be desirable for only one family member to visit the Clothing Room to make selections so that other families can also take advantage of the community resource at the same time.
As a safety precaution, bathrooms will be closed to the public.
"Hopefully, it will work out and hopefully, the vaccine will be here soon," Graves said.
Donations are also being accepted during the hours that the Community Clothing Room is open. While recognizing that people have had months during which to clean out their closets, volunteers note they are not able to accept everything at once.
"We will be accepting donations, but we will be limiting that," Graves stated.
Right now, with months of winter still to come, she asks that people consider donating winter clothing items such as coats, boots and scarves. Even though a coat giveaway was held late last fall, some residents may still be in need at this time.