Meeting the Needs
by Karen E. Farley
In the early 1970s, four local women set out to make sure Brown County residents would have somewhere to go in times of need. These women started Community Closet, the local thrift shop on Van Buren Street in Nashville. Brown County residents Patty Hayes, Laurie Embry, Geri Graham, and Linda Comstock-Teel are a few of the dedicated volunteers for the nonprofit business.
Community Closet is a service organization that provides financial assistance and goods and services to low income residents in Brown County. It serves over twenty organizations throughout the county, and impacts the lives of many individuals and families when they have nowhere to turn for help.
“Our organization believes that giving back to the community is very important,” says Linda Comstock- Teel, the president of the board of directors for Community Closet. “I was taught as a child to pay it back.”
When making financial donations, all of the funds remain in the county. Some of the many organizations that receive assistance include Mother’s Cupboard, Habitat for Humanity, Pregnancy Care Center, and the Brown County Humane Society.
Community Closet provides financial assistance each year to Mother’s Cupboard, the local food pantry. They also purchase tickets to their annual Soup Bowl benefit and silent auction. Tickets are given to volunteers at the thrift shop.
Another recipient is the Brown County EMT Association who hosts an annual community Thanksgiving dinner. Financial contributions are also made to the four volunteer fire departments in Brown County.
The Community Closet depends on donations of clothing, home décor, kitchen wares, and miscellaneous items to stock the thrift shop. The money received from the sale of items is placed in a fund for grants made to other nonprofit organizations. It is also used for financial assistance to pre-screened Brown County applicants and local groups.
Though she is amazed at the amount of donations each month, she is thankful for the support from the community.
“It is unbelievable,” she smiles. “We receive designer clothing with
the tags still attached all the time.”
In the shop, there is a boutique section where newer items are for sale. Once a month, the shop has a bag sale for all items except boutique ones. Customers can fill a red basket for three dollars and walk out with a bargain.
In addition to monetary gifts, the group donates various items from the thrift store.
“We have donated several items to the marching band and drama department at Brown County High School,” she says. “If something comes in that they need, we give it to them.”
Though the group tries to meet most needs throughout the year, requests increase at Christmas. Community Closet provides monetary assistance to Shop with a Cop and helps the local elementary school with Christmas gifts.
“Every year at Christmas we get names of families in need and a wish list from the elementary school,” Comstock-Teel says. “We give away a lot and try to spread it throughout the year. The need is there all year. Just because it’s summer, it doesn’t mean somebody isn’t in need.”
The group consider themselves as an agency of last resort.
“Many have referrals from agencies, but we have a form to fill out,” she explains. “The request then has to be approved by the board of directors before any assistance is given out.
Along with helping individuals with utility bills and clothing, the group supports education and youth with donations to the Brown County Library, Brown County Learning Center, and the Beta Teen Center—an after school program. The organization also provides assistance during natural disasters to Red Cross.
The Community Closet is a vital part of Brown County, but it wouldn’t exist without the help from dedicated volunteers.
Most volunteers work four to six hours a week performing various tasks in the thrift shop. The donated items are checked and sorted, and clothing is placed on hangars. Any items not suitable for sale are donated to homeless shelters.
Comstock-Teel has been a volunteer for six years. She averages 8-10 hours a week dividing her time between board duties and working in the shop. Her passion for helping others and dedication to the Community Closet inspires others to give back to the community.
Community Closet is located at 284 South Van Buren Street under the Subway restaurant in back. The store hours are Tuesdays and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of each month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. They can be reached at (812) 988-6003.