Samaritan’s Closet uses retail profits to fund charities

Sun News correspondentMay 14, 2014 

Judy Lilly is the director of Samaritan’s Closet, an organization that works closely with churches and charities to make gently used, low-cost clothing available.

MICHAEL W. PANNELL/ — SPECIAL TO THE SUN NEWS

PERRY -- Samaritan’s Closet began in the mid-1990s as a way to generate funds for charitable organizations in the Perry area by selling gently used, low-cost clothing.

The ministry began as an outreach of Perry United Methodist Church, where Judy Lilly was a member and headed the church’s mission committee.

Today, Lilly is still at the helm of Samaritan’s Closet, but it’s now an autonomous, nonprofit organization that works closely with churches and charities.

“I think a lot of people believe someone backs us and pays the rent, but that’s not the case,” Lilly said. “All our bills are paid from funds generated through the shop. We did get some seed money from Grace Church to help along the way toward becoming a 501(c)(3). Everything we make above expenses, all the profits, are given away.”

Through the years, profits have grown from $2,000 to $3,000 then $4,000 and more. Gifts were parceled out in $500 amounts to such groups as the Brian Bowen Snax Sax program, Abba House, which got scholarship money for a resident, the Vine Medical Clinic, Christ Lutheran’s Friday free lunch ministry, Family Promise, Heart of Georgia Hospice’s Camp Wings, Meals on Wheels, First Love Ministry and many others.

But this year, the format is changing.

Samaritan’s Closet expects to give $6,000 in one lump sum to one charitable group. The application deadline was set for Thursday, but Lilly said they will be accepted a few days late.

“We decided we wanted to give a larger amount to a single organization, so it would really make a difference,” she said. “This will allow an agency to dream and expand.”

In addition to gifts to others, another aspect of ministry is the clothing. It’s clear Lilly and Samaritan’s Closet volunteers -- including those who simply donate clothes, hangers, shopping bags and other needed supplies -- do a good job keeping quality and selection high. It’s also clear stock is meticulously cared for and arranged.

“We keep sizes in the same spot and keep things uniform and in order,” Lilly said. “Our volunteers will tell you how ticky I am and laugh about it, but they understand it makes the place more pleasant to shop in.”

Lilly said clothing donations can be made and shopping done during regular business hours.

Lilly said Samaritan’s Closet has arrangements with Perry Volunteer Outreach, Division of Family and Children Services, various ministers and other ministries that allow them to give vouchers for free clothes at the store to people in need.

Besides these two areas of ministry, Lilly said there’s a third that’s just as important.

“Samaritan’s Closet is a way for people to give back to the community,” she said. “You can donate clothes and know you’re doing good and helping others. But you can also volunteer and work here. That gives you a chance to give back. Our volunteers can work six hours a month or a couple days a month. If they want to be a substitute for others, they can work even more.”

Lilly said she is eager to have new volunteers join the ministry. For more information, call or drop by Samaritan’s Closet.

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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