A Small Church With Much To Give

January 22, 2024 | Published by Julie Buchanan

A person walks through the door of a brick building with bags of donations
The Clothes Closet at Biltmore Baptist Church provides free clothing to those who need it. Gently used clothing can be placed in a box in the parking lot anytime of day or night.

Biltmore Baptist Church in Glen Allen is diverting thousands of usable items from landfills through its mission to feed and clothe people in need.

In 2023, the church Clothes Closet alone gave away an estimated 50,000 pounds of clothing. That’s a huge achievement for a congregation with around 50 members.

“If people need good, used clothes, we are the place to visit,” said Norma Evenson, Clothes Closet team leader. “We supply the bags and there is no charge.”

Clothes Closet in demand
On the first day it opened in 2017, the Clothes Closet served two people. Last Saturday, 138 families came through the doors. Some Saturdays, as many as 175 families show up.

“People are coming from everywhere,” Evenson said. “Chesterfield, Powhatan, Fredericksburg. All counties. We have inmates coming from some of the jails and many recovery folks. All ages.”

A group of about 20 volunteers keeps the Clothes Closet running. Anyone can help out on Saturdays or on Wednesdays or Fridays.

volunteers around a table sort clothing to be given awayClothes Closet volunteers sort and stock clothing to be given away.

Anyone can donate clothes, too. Clean, gently used clothing, shoes, belts, purses and more are accepted. These can be placed in a donations box in the church parking lot.

“We love what we do,” Evenson said. “We pray for clothes and they come in abundance. We pray for hangers and they come in abundance.”

The Clothes Closet is open Saturdays (except the fifth Saturday) from 9 a.m. until noon.

Spirit of giving
In spring and fall, Biltmore Baptist hosts a yard sale to support its meal programs and upkeep of the Clothes Closet building. All items are donated by the community.

Items that don’t sell don’t just go in the trash. They are given away during a marketplace-style event held on select Saturdays.

Managing these donations is a six-month process, says Barbara Francis, Missions team leader.

Barbara Francis is the Missions team leader.

“Doing the yard sales and giveaways requires storage, and luckily we have rooms to do this,” Francis said. “Last October, we unpacked five rooms of donated items for the yard sale. Thousands and thousands of items, big and small. It takes at least two rooms to pack up leftover items for giveaways. I have from October to March to give that stuff away and empty those rooms again.”

Giveaways are open to the public and promoted via the church Facebook page. Like items are usually grouped together. The most popular giveaway is for linens, followed by giveaways for books and toys.

“Not only have we seen growth in the numbers of people coming to the giveaways, but we’ve seen equal growth in the people who give us items,” Francis said. “People feel much better parting with their books or pots and pans or lamps if they know that they are going into the hands of others who can use them.”

A recent giveaway for kitchen gadgets emptied the church basement of nearly everything but 30 or so water bottles. Even those were given away later in the church Blessings Box.

It’s hard to say how many items the church has kept from the trash, but Francis knows it is a lot.

“We feel that God has placed us in a community with needs and has abundantly given us volunteers and clothes and other items to do what we do. When the Clothes Closet opened, we had no idea that it would grow into what it is today. Serving God in this way brings us as much joy as it does others.”

Biltmore Baptist Church will host a giveaway for books, games and puzzles Jan. 26, 6-8 p.m., and Jan. 27, 9 a.m.-noon. The church is located at 1300 New York Ave., Glen Allen, Virginia.

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