Weather Forecast


Need to look classy? Grandma's Closet can help

In its first 11 months of existence, Grandma's Closet donated over 200 items of clothing to Becker County children.

From infants to teenagers, this outreach ministry of First Lutheran Church in Detroit Lakes offers an opportunity for children to bring home a special outfit for a prom, recital, church or school program, etc. -- even a job or college interview -- the kind of special outfit that their parents might otherwise have difficulty fitting into the family budget.

But while the program has been successful in its first year of existence, its home on the third floor of First Lutheran Church had become too cramped for the burgeoning organization.

In addition to size limitations, its location caused some problems with regard to handicap access -- there was no elevator access in that area of the building, and those with limited mobility had difficulty negotiating three flights of stairs.

Founder Bernie Rodseth, who established the organization in December 2006, said there was also very little privacy for those who wanted to try on clothes.

"We had three issues (with the existing space) -- accessibility, privacy and space," she said.

So when Rodseth received an offer from Wells Fargo Bank to donate the use of a larger space in their building, she accepted it with gratitude.

"Ladd Lyngaas (bank president) and Cindy Bruflodt of Wells Fargo have both been on the First Lutheran Church Council, and felt it would be a service to the community to provide a new, handicap-accessible, larger and more private area for Grandma's Closet," said Rodseth.

Since moving into their new home this week, Rodseth and Score both say the space is perfect for their needs at this time.

Though the new Grandma's Closet is also located on the third floor of Wells Fargo, in Room 303, there is one big difference.

"We have an elevator!" Rodseth exclaimed, adding, "It really does make a difference."

And while the triangular shape of the room might make it less than ideal for other uses, the new shelving -- built by church volunteers Ray Scharnowski and Tom Oaks to withstand the weight of multiple hangars and heavy clothing items -- fit very nicely.

The privacy issue has also been taken care of by Wells Fargo, which offered Rodseth the use of a small room across the hall as a changing room, complete with a comfortable couch and mirror. They also have use of the bathrooms and a small lounge area that has a view of the city below, so when they have more than one appointment scheduled and someone arrives before their previous appointment is finished, the next client can wait in comfortable surroundings.

Thrivent Financial has even provided supplemental funding to help install the new shelving, mirrors, "Grandma's Closet" sign and paint. Even the desk and chairs were donated.

"We've had such support from the community," Rodseth said.

One of the reasons for that support may be that Grandma's Closet fills a unique niche; Rodseth noted that unlike other similar charitable programs, Grandma's Closet is open to anyone -- it is not income-based.

"There is no income level (requirement) that you have to meet," she said.

Grandma's Closet is open by appointment only, however.

Anyone who finds their budget doesn't quite stretch far enough to buy that special prom dress or tuxedo, or who can't quite manage to buy a snazzy new suit for their child's music competitions at school -- these are just a few examples of who Grandma's Closet might be able to help, Rodseth explained.

In many families, the grandmother is the person who provides the little "extras" for their grandchildren when mom and dad need some help. But what about those families where there are no grandparents to fill that role?

"If you don't have a Grandma, go to Grandma's Closet," said Rodseth.

"And even if you do... you can help Grandma out once in a while," joked Kathy Score, who helps Rodseth operate Grandma's Closet on a volunteer basis.

In addition, all the clothing offered at Grandma's Closet is new -- there are no previous owners.

"It's really cool to give something brand new to a kid who's never had a new outfit of their own before," Score said.

Some families are under the impression that the clothing they take from Grandma's Closet must be returned; that is not the case, Rodseth emphasized.

"It's theirs to keep," she said.

Some items are donated directly, others are purchased by Rodseth and Score with donated funds.

"We're very good shoppers," Rodseth said. "We watch all the sales, and now we really have a feel for what we need and don't need."

(One thing that both Score and Rodseth would like, however, is that more teenagers become involved with the organization -- specifically, with helping them make clothing choices.)

Some local clothing and shoe stores even donate items or offer them to Grandma's Closet at a discount, Rodseth noted.

And even though Grandma's Closet is no longer located in the church building, it is still an outreach mission of First Lutheran -- which makes all donations of cash or clothing tax deductible, Rodseth noted.

Another thing about Grandma's Closet many people don't know is that teenagers can contact Grandma's Closet directly to schedule an appointment -- they don't have to ask their parents to do it for them, or even to accompany them. One thing Rodseth does require, however, is that at least two volunteers be present at all times when children are not accompanied by an adult.

(All volunteers with the organization are also required to undergo background checks and child vulnerability training, Rodseth added.)

Though there are no income requirements for going to Grandma's Closet, there is one request: Clients are asked to limit themselves to no more than three visits per year.

Some families that make use of their services offer to pay something for the clothing they take home -- which they will accept, but is not required, Rodseth emphasized.

For more information, either about making donations or scheduling an appointment, call Bernie Rodseth at 218-846-9533 or First Lutheran Church at 218-847-5656.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454