Renovations allow Seneca shop to assist more people in need

Volunteers Julie Cunningham and Eva Barrett sort new clothing donations to be hung up according to sizes and season at the Cranberry Area Community Closet. The shop also has a few odds and ends such as books and other items. (By Richard Sayer)
Staff writer

Renovations this year to the Cranberry Area Community Closet are allowing the store’s organizers to provide for more people in need.

Located in the old Cranberry High School building at 224 S. Main St. in Seneca, just off Route 257, the community closet opened in May 2010 and provides free clothing to anyone in need.

The store has clothing for men, women and children, in addition to a selection of toys and books.

Typically open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the second and fourth Mondays of the month, the store serves about 40 families each day, said Lynn Kifer, one of the organizers of the community closet.

“It’s all good stuff. If we won’t wear it, or if we wouldn’t let our kids wear it, we don’t put it on the racks,” she said.

Lynn and her husband, Rob Kifer, the pastor at Heckathorn United Methodist Church, took over operations in 2012, when the store’s main organizer Marilyn Brandon stepped down.

“Lynn took the ball and ran with it,” said Rob.

Since then, the Kifers have been hard at work filling clothing racks and tidying up the two-room space the store inhabits.

“We originally had a storage room and a clothing room, but donations were piled up to the ceiling,” Lynn said.

Over the summer, the store was the focus of a local mission project through Seneca United Methodist Church. Volunteers created a doorway between the rooms, and heating was installed to replace the store’s several space heaters.

“We sometimes go overseas on missions, but sometimes we can stay in our own backyards,” Rob said.

Now, the rooms are separated into men’s and women’s sections, additional clothing racks are installed and the store has a fresh coat of paint, said Lynn.

The community closet runs on volunteers, Lynn said, who often have more responsibility than would a normal store clerk.

“It’s not just the physical need. I think people sometimes need a place to come in and talk,” said Lynn.

Lynn said that she and other volunteers occasionally buy specific items for people. She recalled an instance of buying a boy an outfit for his school’s choral concert and another time when she purchased steel toe boots for a man who needed them for his job.

“We try to do things like that if we can,” she said.

The store rotates items seasonally, and the Kifers said they are in need of children’s jackets and men’s jeans for the colder months. Items not accepted are appliances like TVs, they noted.

“We’re helping somebody, and we’re here for somebody. We don’t want people to feel like strangers,” Lynn said.

Donation pick-ups may be scheduled ahead by calling Heckathorn United Methodist Church at (814) 676-3839.

The Kifers said they will meet people to receive donations at either the church or the community closet.

The community closet will be open every week until Christmas. The store will operate from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. the first and third Mondays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. the second Monday of the month.