Spotlight on Van Alstyne – The Ramblin’ Closet
We’ve known about The Ramblin’ Closet for awhile now and have even had the opportunity to drop off a few bags of clothing. But we weren’t really sure who was behind this non-profit or the story that went along with it, so we stopped in and spoke with Linda Holman, owner of the store, and some of the wonderful group of people she has working for her – Kathy Richardson, Celia Balderas and Yahaira Balderas.
We were interested to find out how The Ramblin’ Closet came to be! Linda told us, “It was originally my husband, Tom’s, idea. He wanted to equip a trailer with a generator, a heater and an air conditioner and follow the Doctors Without Borders. His idea was to give away clothing to those that had come in for medical treatment. That’s where the name came from – ‘Ramblin’ Closet. Then life happened, we started having grand babies and we realized we couldn’t go out of town like we wanted to. In 2015, we attended Fall der All and saw this building was for lease. We said, ‘How bout we just lease the building and have a brick and mortar location?’ A month later we did just that! Our daughter passed away shortly after we began leasing the building, so officially we opened our doors in 2016. We still have the trailer, and in fact, Tom took it to New Orleans after a hurricane several years ago.”
We saw all of the clothing The Ramblin’ Closet had hanging up, but we also noticed other items – books, a few small appliances and some home décor. We asked all of them what kind of donations they accepted and Linda and Kathy helped us understand.
“We take in clothing, but we also accept small household appliances and wares. We have lots of people call in looking for beds or washer and dryers and refrigerators, but we just don’t have the space for those larger items. Instead, we keep a list of people that say they need larger items or furniture and we’ll connect them to people that want to donate those items. With our clothing, we accept all items. We’re super proud that we repurpose or recycle just about everything – bags, hangers, clothing, etc. And if the clothing is in too bad of shape to be worn or used, we send it to a recycling company where they utilize the items in many different ways that aren’t available to us as a small business.”
We had to ask, “What’s the catch? Everything here is REALLY free? There’s no charge at all?” And all of the ladies said, “Absolutely! We’re a 501c3, a non-profit, so monetary donations from customers are appreciated but not expected. It’s not unusual for folks to drop off a donation and then find something they like or need, so essentially they’ll trade out clothing.”
We could see all the items in the store and in the back! There was clothing neatly stacked almost to the ceiling in the storage area and we knew Linda kept busy with her grandchildren, so we asked how she kept the place running.
Linda said, “I’m here when I can be, but I depend on our part-time employees and volunteers. We currently have 3 part time employees and lots of volunteers. Kathy is here almost everyday, either running the store or cleaning, going through donations and organizing. Her daughter, Kati also helps out. We had another employee for several years, Brodie Wilson. He was up here basically all by himself in the beginning. Celia has been wonderful. When we would have customers that only spoke Spanish, we’d do our best to communicate or just try and wing it. But since she’s been volunteering, language is no longer an issue. She helps translate and she helps with the upkeep of the store. Everybody does everything.”
Kathy told us, “We’ve had lots of volunteers over the years. We have a little 82-year-old lady that comes in. She just needed a reason to get out of the house. We got her a chair, and a little place to sit and do things. We love her! There’s more to it than we could even explain. I get lots of hugs that are worth more to me than a paycheck. I found out about a class in Anna that offers classes to learn English and get your GED. They have free childcare if your kids are potty trained. One of the customers was happy to hear about this. That’s why we say, it’s more than just free clothes. My view of things has changed because of working here, and I think that if someone could come in here and work a weekend or two they’d have a whole new outlook on things. It just makes you feel good. We have our wonderful neighbors, the Senior Center. They come over between Chicken Foot games and help sort and hang clothes. It’s so fun!”
If there is no fee for the clothing or items there at The Ramblin’ Closet, then how do you keep the doors open? How do you pay for lease on the building, the utilities, cleaning supplies? How do you pay the part time employees? Linda said, “We pay for them out of our pocket. We cover all the bills out of pocket; the rent, the utilities, payroll and any business supplies. We do use donations for some of our business supplies.”
We found that to be a completely wonderful, selfless act of kindness! And we wanted to know more, like ‘who’s your target customer, are there any big changes for the future of The Ramblin’ Closet and when are y’all open so that we can be sure and stop by!” They told us, “Well, our target customer is anyone really. We don’t discriminate; all our items are free to those who need them. We also have the 'donators' that like to drop things off here because they know we don’t charge for them. We had to stop taking donations for about a month and a half, and everybody was like, ‘I’m not taking this to a chain thrift shop’, so we told them they’d just have to hold on to it until we got caught up. We have customers from Melissa, Celina, and as far away as Sachse or Durant. As far as future plans, we plan to stay as long as the landlord will let us, or as long as the roof holds up. Other than that, we don’t have any real plans at the moment. And you can come see us Thursday, Friday or Saturday. We accept donations on those days as well as open the store to customers. Generally we’ll see between 40-50 customers per day, but we do get more on Saturdays.”
Finally, we asked the ladies, “What would you like people to know about The Ramblin’ Closet?” They told us, “We want them to know we appreciate all their support and patience. If there’s ever an after hours emergency, they can contact us via our Facebook page and we’ll meet you up here at any time if you need things right away. That’s what we’re here for, to help those in need, regardless of race or economic status. We’re available for anyone in need.”
So the next time you clean out your closet and have all those bags of clothing that you’re not sure what to do with or if you know someone that’s recently faced a tragedy such as a house fire and they’re needing clothing – or if you just find yourself in need, be sure and keep The Ramblin’ Closet in mind. Those behind this ministry are certainly an asset to Van Alstyne and an absolute blessing.
The Ramblin’ Closet
142 S. Main St., Van Alstyne, TX 75495