Need for Clothes Closet and Food Pantry grows as COVID-19 continues

Organization removes some of its restrictions to make it easier to provide help

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ORANGE PARK – The Clothes Closet and Food Pantry of Orange Park is hard at work to help to provide for those in need, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has worsened to force more unemployment due to business cutbacks and shutdowns.

The Clothes Closet and Food Pantry has removed some of its usual restrictions to be able to help as many Clay County residents as possible. The community has been beneficial with donations such as clothes, food, toys, and furniture.

“I think everything is going well; we had a lot of the community bring in donations,” said Kathy Wray, a Day Leader at the CCFP. “We weren't taking donations for about two months, except for food. We weren't taking household items and clothing for couple months because we were overloaded. Plus, we didn’t have volunteers in here to help sort. A lot of our volunteers are over 70 and are not comfortable coming in.”

Wray says that the community has been very generous.

“Great time for them [members of the community] to clean out their houses; we’ve had a lot of toys a lot of clothes, household items, a lot of food,” said Wray.

Terry Rollen, president of the CCFP, added that there has also been a great deal of food donated.

Many churches have aided in food collection and donation.

“There’s been a lot of groups who have brought food as well,” Rollen said. “It’s realty been amazing. We have not run low on food.”

The food, though, is usually the most significant necessity. Even when the CCFP was not letting people into the building for health and safety reasons, they continued to hand out food. Eventually, they realized that they needed to reopen the doors. They instated a mask and limited entry policy to try to ensure safety and continued the excellent work.

“June 15th, we finally decided to let people in,” said Wray. The CCFP also takes donations of household goods and furniture. “We had to stop furniture for a while,” she said. “Because we just ran out of room. Like now, we could use beds every once in a while, but we need people to call [if donating furniture] to see if we have the space for it. That’s our big thing.”

Wray says their older volunteers often are joined by youths from the Mormon Church doing their service work.

With so many people and organizations donating, a significant portion of the job for the volunteers is simply sorting through everything that comes in. At one point last week, multiple receptacles were filled almost to the ceiling, according to Wray. So far, said Wray, the most significant focus among clients has been on food.

“Most of our clients that are coming in are coming in for food,” she said. “They’re not coming in for furniture like they used to or household items like they used to.”

“They’re just concentrating on the food, and some clothes, but mostly food,” said Rollen. “We’re not requiring the referrals like we were because we know it's hard to find an organization to give out the referrals and we’re not being as strict about how often we can give them food, so we’re pretty much-honoring anybody’s request when they come in because we know there must be a great need.”

The CCFP also accepts monetary donations. “A lot of people just walk up and say, will you take monetary donations. Yes. We’re thankful for that,” Wray said.

Wray says that right now they are doing well with food, but will never turn away those donations.

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