Almost every closet has that one shirt that sits in the back waiting for a special occasion that never comes. It may even still have tags on it. Maybe, it’s waiting for it’s owner to lose weight. A year has gone by and that shirt has not been touched! Time to give it up! Literally! Donate it to a good cause.
Thousands of people have recently arrived in the greater Philadelphia region escaping the rule of the Taliban that have now taken power in Afghanistan. Men, women, kids, families have left the country in fear for their lives with only the clothes on their back. Imagine being in a new country, fleeing an oppressive, murderous regime in the same under garments you’ve traveled in and worn for days.
Thankfully, there are organizations like The Wardrobe, formally known as Career Wardrobe, that are collecting clothes to help these Afghan Refugees. In cooperation with the Nationalities Service Center, The Wardrobe is one of the non-profit organizations providing clothing for thousands of these refugees. They have been clothing people in need in the Philadelphia area for free for 26 years. Just like food and shelter, clothing is an essential need. Collecting enough clothes that fits all shapes and sizes and in this case accommodates religious beliefs for thousands of Afghan refugees is a huge undertaking.
Sheri Cole is the Executive Director at The Wardrobe and says they have worked with the Nationalities Service Center for 6 years and have been helping them with their Immigration Resettlement Program. Sheri says The Wardrobe has become the “clothing arm” for all the refugees that they are helping.
“The Nationalities Service Center is helping them with their 90 day resettlement period. So they have to help them with housing, immediate food needs, help them find jobs – all of those really hard things. Our part is kinda the easy part. We are getting a list of people and their sizes and preferences and what we are doing is putting together what we call a ‘Wardrobe Box’ for them, which is a starter wardrobe,” says Cole.
Each box will include a variety of pants, tops, under garments and/or dresses. Basically whatever the person needs. The Wardrobe is asking for help. For this population in particular they are looking for very specific clothing donations. They are in need of new or gently used and clean traditional Muslim wear — specifically hijabs, headscarves and other head coverings. They are also accepting what Cole calls “modest clothing.” She described it as non-revealing flowing garments that go down to the knees and fully cover the body and arms and pants that go down to the ankle.
“Don’t donate your cut off jeans shorts for this or your tank tops. That would not be appropriate,” Cole says in a warm joking manner.
Long sleeve shirts, big scarves that can be wrapped and shoes for all genders are also being collected. In terms of under garments, The Wardrobe is asking for new items. New unused socks, underwear and bras for all genders will be accepted with tags or in packaging only. They are also accepting gift cards from Visa, Target, Walmart, etc, to buy these items if news ones cannot be donated.
The Wardrobe is also encouraging purchasing traditional Muslim garments from local stores to support neighborhood businesses while helping the evacuees. “One of the questions we are asking is whether they prefer more western style or traditional wear and then that way we can pack the box for whoever is getting it based on that,” says Cole. They are only accepting adult clothing for 16 year olds and older because children’s clothes are being serviced by another organization, Cradles To Crayons. They are also accepting toiletries.
Now is the time to clean out your closet or consider donating a gift card or toiletries to help. Cole also mentioned the out pouring of support she has seen and how we are “a giving nation” of people. “The more we can set people up for success and to integrate into society and our community, the better our community is going to be in the long run. Studies prove that immigrants come here and work almost immediately. Start giving back almost immediately,” she shared.
Get a full list of what is needed at wardrobepa.org Donations are accepted at their stores in Philadelphia (413 N 4th St.) and Lansdowne (62 W. Marshall Rd.). Preferred clothing donation times are Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday 11-5 p.m. You can also mail things to 444 N 3rd St to “Care of The Wardrobe.”
Donation are tax deductible. They have a QR code for a donation form to receive a tax receipt!
“You won’t miss that tunic top that’s sitting in the back of your closet and you can pass that on and it will really mean something,” says Cole.