MORRIS – We Care of Grundy County is looking to expand its services by offering clothing – but first it needs a bigger space.
Executive Director Denise Gaska and the We Care board are on the hunt for a new location that could accommodate its food pantry, food storage, offices and space to provide a clothes closet.
“We’ve been talking about this since April when the floods happened and all the clothing donations came in,” she said.
During the April 18 flood, area homes and streets were flooded so badly water rescues were performed throughout the county, many on Cemetery Road. Some families were displaced for months.
Clothing donations came in so rapidly a donation hub was put together at the Quality Inn, where many families were temporarily staying. Gaska said three banquet rooms were filled with donated clothing.
“We Care is the go-to place for people looking for help and this is one area of help we really wished we could have offered more help for [during the flooding],” she said.
Because of a lack of space, We Care could not set up a clothing donation center so flood victims had to go to the We Care office for rent, mortgage and food assistance, but travel elsewhere to get clothing items.
“Our hands were just kind of tied and we don’t want that to happen again,” Gaska said.
Currently when clients have clothing needs, We Care refers them to the Coal City Clothes Closet, but Gaska said getting to Coal City can be troublesome for clients.
The Coal City Clothes Closet has been offering free clothing for about six years and the idea is to mirror its services in Morris.
“It seems to be a consistent request from people coming into We Care,” said Chuck Richardson, president of the We Care board.
The We Care board is looking for a location in Morris, but with more visibility.
Cathy Milne, director of the Coal City Clothes Closet, also sits on the We Care board and supports We Care expanding its services when the organization has enough room to do so.
“There is a need out there,” she said. “If We Care decides to open one, I will back them 100 percent.”
Both Milne and Gaska said the idea would be to support each other by sharing supplies and referring families to either location if the other does not have what a family needs.
We Care conducted a survey with the Grundy County Interagency Council, an organization local service agencies join to communicate with each other and collaborate. It has about 30 members, Gaska said, and 16 took the survey and overwhelming supported the idea of a clothes closet in Morris.
The Coal City closet and We Care leaders have been working together to figure out the logistics of what We Care would need to make this work. Based on Milne’s advice, its space and more volunteers.
If the larger space can be found, We Care may be able to offer more services, Gaska said, such as job training and opportunities for PADS clients. PADS is the area’s homeless shelter program.
If the board can find a location it can afford, We Care would sell its current location for funds toward the new place, Gaska said.
We Care is located inside the CanalPort Community Center, a condo-type facility where local nonprofits each have a unit.
Depending on the cost of a new facility, We Care may have to do a separate capital campaign for more funds.
A Goodwill retail store is planning to open in Morris, but Gaska said it would have a different customer base.
“We know the community is really asking for some place to give their clothing donations to where it will be given away,” she said.
The hope is to have a new facility and a clothes closet in Morris within a year. We Care is not yet taking clothing donations.
For information on We Care visit wecareofgrundy.com.