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Clothed in Faith: Helping others dress for success

A free community clothes closet called Clothed in Faith fills a room inside Faith Church in Farmington. Leader Kathy Gunderson (left), stands with volunteers Estell Helgeson, Kay Hoeppner and Joyce Mitchell. Kara Hildreth / contributor 1 / 2
Open to the public, Clothed in Faith specializes in giving away women’s professional work clothes and finding homes for children’s winter coats, clothes and shoes and men's clothes. Kara Hildreth / contributor 2 / 2

FARMINGTON — Women can feel more empowered when wearing professional, fashionable work clothes.

That is idea behind the free community closet called Clothed in Faith housed inside Faith Church.

Organizer Kathy Gunderson wants to get the word out that closet is open and women can come shop for free.

The Women of Faith ladies circle wishes to help out women and give ladies a fresh foot forward when they decided to enter or reenter the workforce, head out on job interviews and build a professional, seasonable wardrobe.

In 2015, the church women's closet was named Wednesday Wear. The Women of Faith decided to grow the outreach mission and renamed and rebranded the closet to Clothed in Faith. The local graphics company BlackFire Creative in downtown Farmington designed a custom logo for signs and marketing materials.

The idea originated from Nerstrand church that operated a free women's closet in their church.

Clothed in Faith has two rooms on the second floor devoted to the clothes mission where organizers volunteer time to sort and store out-of-season season clothes in one room, and the other room is set up to resemble a women's boutique.

"We put out a call to the congregation, friends, neighbors for all kinds of clothing and especially children's clothing," Gunderson said.

"We are finding people are still in need with winter coats, and we have a lot of winter coats going out and our hats are knitted by Doreen Larson," said volunteer Kay Hoeppner.

"I wanted to be a part of our Faith Church's outreach mission to give free clothes to people who are in need because it is hard to find money for poor people," Hoeppner said.

Years ago, the Farmington Food Shelf was housed inside the church. Today Women of Faith network with Farmington Elementary to give children clothing and undergarments that are handed out by the school nurse. The group wishes to network with more schools, churches and philanthropic groups to work together and meet the community's needs.

"Women are so happy to have a place to donate their clothes to give back to other women in the community," Hoeppner said.

Clothed in Faith serves a half dozen women or customers each week, but the Women of Faith believe there is a greater, unmet need in Farmington and area towns.

"We wish we had more coming in and we are busy putting flyers around town and across communities and churches, especially the women's shelter in Hastings," Gunderson said.

When she returned to the workforce years ago, Gunderson said she needed to dress in more formal clothing than today's business casual women's clothes.

Volunteer Joyce Mitchell enjoys the camaraderie of volunteering with her fellow female friends and she loves sorting the clothes for each season.

"It is just fun getting together but you just wish more people could take advantage because I know there are people who are out there and who are in need," Mitchell said.

The women recall a grandmother who came to shop because she had just gained custody of three little girl grandchildren. She was able to take home brand new winter coats. The ladies told her to please return again.

Volunteer Estell Helgeson said, "I love meeting the people who come in and we are so happy to help people and I love being with the ladies." Many know the first names of their customers.

Clothed in Faith does not limit the amount of clothing that can be taken, except new socks and undergarments are limited in inventory.

Besides women's work apparel, Clothed in Faith houses a large selection of men's professional and casual clothes, suits and a large inventory of children and baby clothes.

"If men are going back to the business world and need to wear a suit, we have sport coats and ties," Gunderson said.

"It is important for women to look nice so they can feel confident and feel better working and in meetings," Gunderson said. "Because I know I do if I am in a meeting, and I think it is important for women to get away from wearing sweat pants and jeans."

Clothed in Faith welcomes all clothing donations that are tax deductible.

The details

What: Clothed in Faith – a free community clothes closet

When: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesdays or by appointment; call 952-953-5755

Where: 710 Eighth St., Farmington.