Volunteer of the Week: Brenda Engel, Wesley United Methodist Church

Brenda Engel, of Niles, is a member of Wesley United Methodist Church and the director of Evy’s Closet. The closet is run out of the church and offers free clothing, shoes and accessories to women. Engel spearheaded the project in June, with the intent to fill a need she noticed in the Berrien and Cass County communities. As of Tuesday, more than 50 people have visited the closet since its inception.

Evy’s Closet is open from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday at the church, 302 Cedar St. in Niles. Those interested in utilizing the closet can visit twice a month and select up to two items and an assortment of accessories.

How did you get involved in creating Evy’s Closet?

The closet opened in late June and it was named after my mother, [the late] Evelyn Bolton. I really think that the idea came to me because it was something that God told me to do. There definitely was a need in our area for women’s clothing to be given to people. I was aware of kids’ closets and knew that they distributed kids clothing, but I felt there needed to be a dedicated clothing ministry for women.

Brenda Engel

I named it after my mom because of her involvement in clothing as a costumer in the Niles Community Schools district. She helped out with plays and the music department costuming. She also taught people how to mend and repair their clothes.

How have those in need responded to the help?

We have people that come in and are so grateful. They express their thanks over and over again. I have had ladies who have just been released from prison, people who are homeless, people on fixed income and people who can walk to the church.

How do people with extra clothes contribute to the closet?

It is all community donation based.  It is run through Wesley United Methodist Church, which is a nonprofit, so we can give tax receipts. Some donors come multiple times to donate items and we rely on that to keep our stock going.

Right now, we could use more warm clothing, such as sweaters and slacks. We are getting low on pajamas, nightgowns and those kinds of things. Definitely socks, too, and some larger sized coats. Donations can be dropped off at the church 9 a.m. to noon Monday to Thursday.  We also accept donations from 4 to 6 p.m. when the closet is open.

What do you enjoy about volunteering for Evy’s Closet?

I think what I enjoy the most is seeing people come in and see what we have. There is just joy at the helpfulness, while being able to come in and get items of clothing that they really, really need. We treat them just like they are shoppers in a store and we offer assistance where we can. [I enjoy] seeing their happy faces and their gratitude and knowing that Evy’s Closet has filled a great need for many women in our community.

I would like to emphasize that I have partners. I always run the closet with another volunteer. I have volunteers within Wesley. I have volunteers from outside of the community that have heard about Evy’s Closet and they want to help.

Why would you encourage people to volunteer for the cause?

The need is much greater than what we know. I think we have just scratched the surface of the need for women in our area. There will be much more need that needs to be met, which is why I would encourage people to donate and to volunteer their time.

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