We’ve all been in the grocery line when a mother whose nerves are already frayed is fielding the whines, cries and wild behavior of her children. Something sends her over the edge, and with her limited fumes of energy she explodes at them.
When a woman gives birth, she’s typically drawn into the role of caretaker for this new, fragile being. And for some people, it’s the most dependable relationship they’ll ever know. But for a mother to be a lifelong supplier of love, support and acceptance, she needs fuel in her own tank.
While a wardrobe’s price tag can’t cover up how emotionally impoverished a woman feels, there’s a Newhall nonprofit that’s mastered the power of apparel.
Closet on Main, the shop with a friendly green awning located in Old Town Newhall, helps in two ways: All purchases support the nonprofit Single Mothers Outreach, plus the organization’s clients get to visit the store for free clothing every month.
“They love getting the clothes,” the store’s manager, Roxanne Velo, told me when I stopped by on Tuesday. “It gives them confidence, builds their self-esteem. … It allows them to send their children to school in clothes and shoes they probably would not be able to provide themselves.”
Each of the single moms gets a voucher, redeemable any time during the month, for five pieces of women’s wear and five pieces of clothing for each of their children.
In addition to individual donations, Closet on Main receives large quantities of new merchandise from such organizations as World Impact. This week Velo has new-in-the-package faux fur throws, which you can buy online from the manufacturer for $125. But I suggest you buy them at Closet on Main for $17.
The store gets enough donations that Velo can choose the better-quality pieces and repurpose the rest. I got there before she opened, so I ended up helping her drag about eight huge bags to the back doorstep to be picked up for a veterans organization. She donates dozens of bags a week.
But it doesn’t negate the store’s constant need for donations. She said the menswear is low and there’s always a need for children’s clothes, especially for ages 6 to 16.
Velo has a background in retail and worked nine years for a children’s medical nonprofit before taking the job with Single Mothers Outreach about a year ago.
“I loved it because it wasn’t an office job where I’m just sitting,” she said, almost breathless from unpacking boxes and creating displays. “It’s so much more fun.”
From sorting donations and restocking racks to managing volunteers, it’s a big job for one woman – which is why Closet on Main welcomes volunteers. But the store could definitely use more.
Volunteerism is often a temporary commitment. College students might stay for a semester, and others – such as some who are completing court-mandated hours – typically haven’t stayed on permanently.
Some of the shop’s volunteers are the Single Mothers Outreach clients themselves.
“They can learn about customer service and retail and tagging and everything the retail industry sup-plies,” said Yorleni Sapp, Single Mothers Outreach executive director. “Not only is it a therapeutic place, but some are too scared to go out and find a job.”
The director explained to me that in her two years at the helm of the nonprofit, she has learned something valuable. While the earlier focus was on training single moms to get them into the workforce ASAP, she’s discovered that many of the women have more basic needs, and they aren’t ready for that step just yet.
“We wanted all moms to register to develop skills or we wanted them to get a resume ready,” Sapp said. “A lot of them are lost and they don’t even know what they’re good at, what kinds of skills they have.”
Closet on Main is a major stream of income for Single Mothers Outreach.
“The store serves on the front lines, because the revenue the store brings helps us with operating costs,” she said. “Operational money is hard – nobody wants to give money for rent.”
It may not be sexy to give money to keep the lights on, but SMO needs funding to serve about 350 clients a month for everything from basic supplies to individual and group therapy. And babysitting is provided free to moms for the many classes available to them: financial education, self-care, legal issues, yoga and others.
“Many come because of some kind of loss – somebody left them, etc.,” the SMO director said. “We must go back to figure out, how do we get you out of that loss and ‘I’m not worth it’ mindset?”
The newest strategy is a program called “6 Steps to Self-Worth,” which Sapp is hoping will get them to a place where they say, “Yes, life is painful and it’s been hard and it’s messy, and I’m going to get some tools.”
Meanwhile, Closet on Main continues to provide the thrill of the hunt for “regulars” and funding for single moms. If you can’t visit the shop while it’s open Tuesdays through Saturdays, you can attend an evening event there hosted by longtime SMO supporter Tracy Hauser, a Santa Clarita resident and Realtor. She is having a birthday fundraiser on Thursday, Sept. 20, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. It’s an open-house-style event with wine and cake.
“We welcome donations, and there are a lot of lovely things there they can buy,” Hauser said. “And 100 percent of the proceeds go back to the program.”
The attractive, pre-owned apparel in your own closet can improve what you experience on the outside. But the clothing from Closet on Main can also serve to improve what single moms experience on the inside.
Closet on Main is located at 24335 Main St. in Newhall. Visit Singlemothersoutreach.org.
Martha Michael is a contributing writer for The Signal.