‘A year we will always remember’

Curt’s Closet finds ways to continue serving in spite of COVID-19, prepares to expand in 2021

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Curt’s Closet Founder Ashley Wilson stands with student volunteers who wore her late son Curt Wilson’s Cullman High School baseball jersey number at the inaugural Clothed in Cullman event in 2019. Curt Wilson was tragically killed in a crash caused by a drunk driver in 2017. (2019/W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune) 

CULLMAN, Ala. – Children and teens’ clothing and accessory boutique Curt’s Closet is already well-known for the one major feature that sets it apart from the area’s retail stores: everything is free. For families who qualify, kids get to come and shop for clothes, shoes, backpacks, purses and more, with no checkout line at the door. The nonprofit’s founder Ashley Wilson and her cadre of volunteers faced a host of challenges through 2020, finding ways to adapt to new rules of doing business while continuing to provide their unique ministry.

Wilson began, “What a year it has been for us all. A year we will always remember.”

By the numbers

Wilson shared, “2020 has been a challenging year and a year of change for Curt’s Closet. In 2020 we served 1,412 children. These numbers are slightly lower than 2019. The decrease in numbers is due to the pandemic. Curt’s Closet was closed for six weeks. After we reopened, we changed the way we scheduled our clients, to comply with the CDC guidelines. Curt’s Closet went from seeing three families per hour to one. This kept the number of people down inside Curt’s Closet. The health of our clients and volunteers was our priority. This has kept our appointments booked for months out. We currently have no open appointments till February 2021.

“In addition to serving over 1,400 children, Curt’s Closet also served 54 foster families, 19 house fire victims, multiple clients of Victim Services, and three families in Gulf Shores that were victims of the hurricanes this year.”

COVID impact and response

“COVID has impacted us all in so many ways; this makes no exception for a small nonprofit like Curt’s Closet,” said Wilson. “We have seen many families in the past months that would not normally need our services. Due to the Safer at Home Order we have seen a decline in volunteers, which is understandable. 

“The greatest impact to Curt’s Closet was having to cancel our annual fundraiser, Clothed in Cullman. We only hold one fundraiser a year. We were concerned about the impact this would have on our finances. As always, our supporters have been amazing. Even during a pandemic, a year with challenges, our supporters have outdone themselves. Through the pandemic, Curt’s Closet was able to donate $1,000 to Cullman Caring for Kids, fed frontline workers and provided meals to restaurant employees that had no income during the shutdown. With the magnificent support everyone has shown Curt’s Closet, we outgrew our current location quickly. The abundance of donations we receive daily overflow our donation room. We have limited space and shelving to store all the donations. But our prayers have been answered, with a new, larger building. This is only possible through everyone who continues to support us.”

Big plans for 2021!

Wilson told The Tribune, “Curt’s Closet has plans to move in early 2021. Renovations are currently being made to our new location at 1101 Third Ave. SE. Our new facility will provide more storage to keep additional items, so no child must leave without an item in their size. Also, we will be able to eliminate three storage units, have a larger area for a greater volume of volunteers, and add other services in the future. We have a 5- and 10-year goal, to pay off our current mortgage on the new location. Another goal is a full-time employee; this will help accommodate emergency needs immediately and the ability to serve a greater number of families. 

“Curt’s Closet wants to continue to provide our services for generations to come.  We aim to provide basic needs to deserving children of our community. They are the innocent victims of life circumstances.”

A community effort

Said Wilson, “We have already been so overwhelmed with the support of our new location. I speak to people every day that want to help with the move, volunteer, provide needed items for the move or donate monetarily. We have had some gracious donors, such as Wal-Mart Distribution #6006, Apel Steel, a few that have requested to stay anonymous. Our sponsors, great or small, is how we can serve the children in our community. No amount is too small; we were amazed by the donations that simply came through Facebook. The fundraisers individuals held on Facebook for Curt’s Closet- they truly add up. We appreciate any and every donation, monetarily or items to Curt’s Closet. We are making a difference together! The services Curt’s Closet provides go beyond the clothing and shoes; we clothe them with confidence and love.”

The final word

Wilson told The Tribune, “We are so excited to see what 2021 holds for Curt’s Closet. Our new location is opening doors for us to serve on a greater level. Thank you for everyone who has helped us get where we are. I see the impact our services are making on these children. 

“A story as simple as this one shows the impact we have on our community.  As I was helping a family find a size in shoes, I overheard a young boy, approximately 10 years old, say to his mother ‘I think I am going to cry.’ The boy’s mother got concerned and asked if he was okay. The young boy replied, ‘Yes, I am just so happy. This place is amazing.’ Secretly I had to walk into my office to shed a few tears myself. 

“Knowing the impact Curt is still making here on earth is amazing! I say thank you to everyone who has stood behind my vision. Stay connected with Curt’s Closet on social media about our big move and our new exciting plans for 2021.”

For more on Curt’s Closet, visit www.facebook.com/cw20curtscloset/

Copyright 2020 Humble Roots, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com