Almost a year in, Curt’s Closet impacting lives in a big way

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Kicking off Curt’s Closet’s first sorting day were (L-R): Denise Williams, Courtney Herron, Christy Patterson, Brenda Rush, Ashley Wilson and Carrie Bentley back in January 2018. (Cullman Tribune file photo)

CULLMAN – Ashley Wilson’s world changed forever in May 2017 when her son Curt died in a tragic automobile accident on County Road 222.  Two months later, she set in motion a plan not only to honor his memory, but to make the lives of other kids better in his name.  In March 2018, Curt’s Closet opened its doors as a youth clothing boutique with a twist: everything’s free!  It’s a charity operation, but it’s not a typical “clothing closet.”  Children and teens from disadvantaged families come and shop in a setting that feels more like a retail boutique, just without the cash register and card scanner.  Wilson said she wanted kids, whatever their circumstances, to enjoy a normal shopping experience in the store.

As she prepared to open the store, she posted to the Curt’s Closet website:

“Curt had a gift for loving others with the love of Christ… he brightened any room he walked into and touched many lives with his sincere care and concern for others.  His wit and humor made everyone he came in contact with walk away smiling! I want to continue his gift of love by lessening the burden of the expenses that parents face each year as their children go back to school and throughout the year.  In doing so, we collect donations of gently used/new clothing, shoes, backpacks and lunch boxes. There's no greater gift I can give in memory of my son than that of making a difference in the lives of those in need. It's what Curt would want… to make life a little easier and make people smile.”

The Tribune caught up with Wilson this week to find out how her first year has gone.  

“As 2018 comes to a close, I look back at our year at Curt's Closet and I am extremely grateful.  I have said it numerous times; this community is the best! 2018 would not have been as successful without our supporters,” said Wilson.

“Since opening our doors on March 1, 2018, we have served 418 families and 662 children.  The need for basic needs, such as clothing and shoes, is so much greater than I imagined.  I have heard heartbreaking stories and seen sad situations of families trying to do better for themselves.  Their situation does not define who they are. We want to love on these families and help in any way we can, to get them back on their feet.”

Reaching around the world

Wilson shared, “Not (only) have we been able to provide nice, clean clothing, shoes, backpacks and accessories to children right here in our community, but we have also sent three shipments to Uganda.  Most of these children are refugees, who have had to flee to refugee camps due to their homes and villages being destroyed. Most are orphaned. I have received pictures of these children wearing clothing from Curt's Closet.  This makes me so happy, knowing we are not only spreading the Love of Christ here but overseas. Helping others in need is what we are called to do. You can actually see these pictures as soon as you walk into Curt's Closet; they sit right under the picture of Curt.  I know my precious Curt would be so happy to see all the good happening at Curt's Closet. Curt had the biggest, most giving heart, it does me good to honor his legacy in such a small way.”

Christmas cheer here at home

Wilson said, “This week Curt's Closet was able to deliver over 200 new Christmas gifts to very deserving families, including turkeys and bags of groceries.  These children, otherwise, would wake up on Christmas morning with no gifts to open. No child should experience that heartache. Once again, all this was possible with the help of this community.”

Wilson recently began a combination shoe drive/fundraiser, which is still going on.  Shoes needed here will be distributed here and, thanks to a partnership with other charitable groups, Curt’s Closet will be paid for excess shoes that it sends for overseas distribution.  The shoe drive, then, provides the local charity with both material and financial support.

Said Wilson, “The drive has been extended till after the first of the year, giving us extra time to reach our goal of 2,500 pairs of shoes.  We are about 650 pairs from our goal. I am believing we will exceed our goal. I am overwhelmed by the response: we have had classrooms, churches, the Elks Lodge get involved.  The shoes we do not use at Curt's Closet will be refurbished and sent to places like Haiti. This shoe drive is not only providing shoes for children here but also developing countries, all while raising funds for Curt's Closet.  It is a win-win.”

Community and business partners make it work

“I am truly blown away with the support everyone has shown to Curt's Closet,” said Wilson.  “From the multiple donations we receive weekly to keep our racks full, to the support of local businesses, such as Belk, If The Shoe Fits, Three Pears, Better Than Before, just to name a few.  And of course, the gracious hearts of donors that believe in what we are doing at Curt' Closet, donors like the Apels and the Bentleys. There is no way to name everyone; we are so blessed with support.  

“Our supporters made our first 10 months a huge success.  I hope everyone knows how grateful we are; we could not do what we are doing without everyone's support, from a bag full of donations to a big check, it all makes a difference.

“Curt's Closet is so excited to see what 2019 holds.  We are setting goals and working on making Curt's Closet even better to serve more.  We already have plans for our first big fundraiser on May 4, 2019. Mark your calendar, trust me, you will not want to miss this fundraiser.”

What it’s all about

Volunteer Misti McCombs Easter took part in the recent delivery of Christmas joy to local families in need.  She recounted on her Facebook page what happened next, and The Tribune thanks her and Wilson for their permission to include this very personal note.  

After stopping to eat following one very special delivery, Easter wrote the two “got into our cars and headed to our respective homes.  I’m not even sure if she knew I was still behind her when she got to the entrance of the cemetery, but I saw her turn and I knew what she was doing.  She had to go tell her precious Curt about the blessings that took place today in his memory. Of course, he already knew because his presence follows her everywhere she goes, and his spirit lives on through every act of generosity and kindness extended by her.  He’s never ‘gone.’ He’s always here. And he’s up there…smiling down on her and holding her place. I hope she feels his love especially BIG tonight!

“So, forgive me for waxing a bit poetic. Forget the ‘stuff’ that has come to define Christmas and just be kindness, love & generosity to someone in need…it’s the best gift you can give to yourself.  Cherish your loved ones and SHOW them how much they mean to you by giving of yourself instead of focusing on the material things. Remember this sweet mother who can’t physically hold her son and whisper an extra prayer for her tonight.  And, most of all, remember our Heavenly Father who gave us His Son so that we have hope of a future that is SO MUCH more than this little sliver of life we’re given here on this earth. Thank God there’s that…this place is not our home.”

Get involved!

Curt's Closet accepts new and gently used clothing, shoes, backpacks, lunch boxes and accessories.  It only distributes new undergarments and socks, and these are always needed. And of course, tax-deductible monetary donations are always welcome.

If you’d like to donate, or if you are interested in volunteering, visit https://sites.google.com/view/curtscloset or www.facebook.com/cw20curtscloset/, or call 256-735-4557.

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