ELLSWORTH — A new suit meant a new job for a local homeless man.
“He said, ‘You know, I couldn’t have done this without you,’” said Jacqueline Wycoff, director of the Community Closet.
The man found the suit on the racks of the nonprofit thrift shop at 25 Eastward Lane in Ellsworth.
“Shop” might not be the right description for the organization. Many of the items are given away for free. The first 10 articles of clothing or necessities such as bed linens and toiletries are available by donation to anyone who walks in the door.
“Whatever they can afford,” Wycoff explained. “And, to be honest, for a lot of them it’s nothing.”
Each additional item after 10 is $1. Exceptions are made when the need is great. Fire victims are welcome to pick out whatever they need. The Community Closet also works with organizations that serve the homeless, foster children, domestic violence victims and addicts.
The organization was formerly known as the FROG Foundation. Wycoff took over May 1, after learning about the impending closure on social media.
The stay-at-home mom of three boys (ages 2, 4 and 14) now volunteers 40-plus hours a week at the Community Closet. A group of core volunteers pitches in to help run the store and process donations deposited in the drop boxes out front.
The store carries men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, shoes, baby supplies, linens and some other household items. There is a special yard sale room filled with non-necessities such as purses, toys and décor items, which are individually priced. Proceeds help to cover operating costs.
When inventory is high, the Community Closet will open for a special 50-cent day when all items are available for that price.
Operating costs are roughly $1,000-$1,200 per month for rent and utilities. Any money raised beyond that amount is used to purchase “the things no one wants to buy used” such as underwear, Wycoff said.
She said that while not everyone can afford to make a donation, shoppers show their appreciation in other ways.
One woman baked bread; another brings in plants.
Children visiting the Community Closet can take home a free book thanks to the Phillip Carter Reading Foundation.
Wycoff started the charity in memory of her cousin, who was killed in a 2014 accident in Dedham. Phillip Carter, who worked at Paddy Murphy’s in Bangor, was nicknamed “The Reading Bouncer.” He’d sit on a stool outside the pub reading. When he was done with a book, he’d often pass it along to a friend or stranger.
In his honor, the foundation has distributed over 6,500 books in the past two years. There are bookshelves at the Community Closet as well as at Mountain View School in Sullivan. Wycoff, a former school librarian, hopes to expand to more schools in the future.
She said some children have no books at home. Parents are sometimes afraid to borrow books from the library for fear they’ll be lost or damaged, she added.
“The goal is just to put a book in their hands,” Wycoff said.
Adult books are now available as well.
The Community Closet is open Monday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Donations may be made at any time using the drop boxes in front of the building.