Local boutique gives free clothes to teens in need
Most people would consider shopping for new clothes an ordinary task. However, for the children who are homeless or simply cannot afford a new wardrobe, shopping is a luxury.
Regardless of their status, all children and teens in need are welcome to shop at Cool Clothes Closet of South Palm Beach County.
“I feel that people are judged by their appearance,” owner Lynda Walsh said. “The more you fit in and feel like you’re a part of society, the more it raises your self-esteem and prepares you for success in life.”
Cool Clothes Closet, a nine-room boutique located in Delray Beach, provides clothing free of charge to kids and teens who would otherwise not be able to afford it.
The customers are referred to by community partners, schools or clubs. Since the shop is by appointment only, and the kids and teens that visit must be accompanied by an adult.
The concept for the organization came to Walsh while she was working as a guardian ad litem, observing children and teens in court.
“I saw kids coming into court who were abused and neglected,” Walsh said. “They were wearing really horrible, torn and dirty clothes.”
Walsh began asking friends and family for gently-used garments they would be willing to donate. Since word of mouth travels fast, she soon had a large office space full of donated clothing.
“We put up racks and set up the room like a little store as best as we could,” Walsh said. “I always wanted to make the shopping experience as close to a real store as I could.”
Cool Clothes Closet was created five years ago with the help of Walsh’s boyfriend, who passed away just as the store opened.
“He wasn’t there anymore so everything kind of fell to me,” Walsh said. “I had no experience whatsoever in anything like this, but I just started by calling all the agencies, and I looked in the newspaper every week to see if there was anything that had to do with children's welfare.”
Despite having to learn the ways of owning a nonprofit on her own, Walsh is on track to help almost 1,000 kids shop.
The store’s mission is to raise children’s self-esteem so that they feel as good as other children who are more financially secure. High self-esteem and confidence contributes to success in life, according to the Cool Clothes Closet website.
The Cool Clothes Closet mission even includes prom season. The nonprofit gives away prom dresses, tuxedos and suits.
“A Haitian high school in Delray called me up and asked if I had any prom dresses,” Walsh said. “I said no and that I didn’t really want them because they’re big and they take up a lot of room, but I’d see what I could do.”
Walsh managed to gather around 150 prom dresses in time for the season, and successfully sold each one.
In 2018, Cool Clothes Closet gave away 162 dresses and 34 suits. Their goal this year is to double those numbers, according to Walsh.
Walsh and her volunteers assist the kids in finding clothing that fits them well. Because no outfit is complete without accessories, Cool Clothes Closet has purses, shoes, jewelry, and hats available for the young customers.
“To me, they are the happiest and most loving, fun people I’ve ever met,” Walsh said. “When the kids are really happy, that’s very rewarding to us.”
By Sofia Jas