Angels’ Closet helps students enjoy the fun parts of school

Angels’ Closet provides a boutique atmosphere in which middle and high school students in need can find new or gently used clothing at no charge.

“Redlands is such a generous community! Wherever there is a need, this community reaches out to help meet that need,” exclaimed Pat Williams, founder of Angels’ Closet Charities, which helps serve the clothing needs of boys and girls in the Redlands middle schools and high schools.

Now that the new school year has begun, many of us are reminded of how expensive it can be to outfit a middle or high school student with shoes, clothing, backpacks and school supplies. It is estimated that these annual purchases may run as high as $375 for high school students, which presents a heavy challenge to low-income families.

For the past 11 years, Pat Williams has been extending outreach and a helping hand to students in need, and formed a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called Angels’ Closet Charities.

It all began 11 years ago in Pat’s living room when it was brought to her attention that many students were missing proms because they had nothing suitable to wear. So she felt inspired to begin collecting prom gowns and formal attire in her own living room to offer to students just to make it possible for them to attend homecoming and school dances which they would otherwise miss out on.

“We started with 35 donated prom dresses — which allowed nine girls to go to the prom — and several months later, we had 250 donated formals filling my living room!” Pat said.

Then, with the help and support of school counselors and principals, a room was made available on the campus of Redlands East Valley High School to display new or gently used clothing that had been donated. Over the years, however, Angels’ Closet has grown from one to five rooms with a boutique atmosphere where clothing is displayed and may be tried on by students.

Students are usually identified by  counselors and teachers as being in need and are referred to Angels’ Closet for private appointments.

“Some students are living in cars with their families while others are living in motels or groves,” said Pat. “So all efforts are made to maintain student privacy and prevent any embarrassment.”

Angels’ Closet also offers to provide students with caps and gowns so that they can attend their own commencement, and provides funding for sports team uniforms for extra-curricular activities.

Angels’ Closet relies upon the generosity of our community not only to provide basic necessities for the students but, according to their flyer, “because it helps financially challenged students feel a sense of normalcy and belonging when they’re able to participate in memorable activities such as homecoming, prom, and senior graduation.”

“The end result is enhanced morale and self-worth.” said Pat, who added, “We are not a thrift store. Angels Closet provides clothing to meet basic needs —including business attire to wear if interviewing for a job — to foster self-esteem and continued school attendance in a fun and pleasant environment.”

Thank-you notes from students include, “I wanna just say thank you for everything all my high school years you help me with clothes, suits, shoes and my ticket for grad night. You just been a blessing for me and Thank You so much for everything help me with all this stuff for these past four years and I just really thank you.” Signed with a happy face and valentine heart.

Another note reads, “Dear Mrs. Patricia Williams, thank you for getting me a jacket so I won’t be cold no more. It looks good and feeds good!”

Among those who have made notable donations of money, time, needed underwear, shoes, jackets, shirts, sweaters, pants, coats and skirts, plus laundering or pressing, are Dave and Tricia Kelly, owners of Nectar Clothing in Redlands.

It is estimated that Angels’ Closet serves 350 to 400 students per year. So anyone with time on their hands who is looking to support a good cause with donations of time, money, clothing, or service may visit angels-closet.org or call Pat Williams, president and founder, at (909) 794-7967.