By Christine Bryant
It’s not often that someone can go shopping for free. But a Grove City church is making sure local residents are getting an important need met – at no cost to them.
Every week, Grove City United Methodist Church – known to many as the Purple Door Church – opens its Purple Door Free Store. Inside the store are multiple racks of clothing that are available to families in need who live in the South-Western City Schools District.
In addition to offering local residents an easy way to give back through donations, the store provides clean clothing – for free – to people in need, says John Hampson, director of the store.
“It can help them feel better about themselves, stay warm and comfortable,” he said. “It has the potential to bring all parts of the community together in an accepting and welcoming atmosphere.”
Though the store currently is open from 6 to 8 p.m. every Wednesday, Hampson said organizers hope to extend hours to include Sunday afternoons beginning next month.
“In the brief eight weeks we have been open, we have served over 150 people,” he said. “Our store has experienced a steady growth in clientele.”
The Purple Door Free Store originated from a Bible study called “40 Days of Community” in which nine church members participated. Tasked with finding a way to give back to the community, the group began last fall organizing the logistics of opening a community free store. In December, the store opened to the public, and since has been a team effort among the 40 volunteers of all ages.
“Our team has done everything from sorting, hanging, washing and putting hygiene packets together,” Hampson said. “Others act as personal shoppers. One person has built clothing racks. Others have handled data entry, coordinate our volunteers and do painting and maintaining of the room.”
Though their original vision was to serve young people, the scale of donations so far has led them to believe all people in South-Western City Schools are in need, he said.
“However, we will serve anyone in need no matter where they live on a one-time basis,” Hampson said. “We will provide them with information to direct them to free clothing stores in their areas.”
To shop, clients must bring a photo ID or other piece of identification, such as a veterans ID or lease. Children should have a school ID, health or insurance card, Social Security card, birth certificate or other identifying information.
Items the store carries include coats, shoes, belts, socks and children’s underwear.
“We also have children’s books to encourage them to read,” Hampson said. “Each child is given a book of his or her choice.”
All donated items are laundered before going on the racks. The store is in need of new children’s underwear and gently used or new children’s socks. Other items that always are in need are men’s jeans in all sizes and junior girls’ sizes. Any clothing is accepted, however.
Those who wish to donate can drop off the items at the church, located at 2684 Columbus St., Grove City. Donors should drive through the parking lot to the back of the church to the large canopy entrance. Through the glass doors are two large purple plastic bins. The church is open for donations from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and all day on Sunday.