JFCS Thrift Boutique in NE Philadelphia Closes, Merger Presents New Opportunity

By: Marissa Stern | JE Staffscreen-shot-2016-12-08-at-9-05-59-am

After three years, the Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia thrift boutique in Northeast Philadelphia has closed its doors.

But as they say, when one door closes, another one opens. Or in this case, pops up.

JFCS recently finalized a merger with Our Closet, a nonprofit formed in 2011 by Jill Aschkenasy that provides donated clothing free of charge for those in need, which had been in the works for a few months.

With the boutique closing, JFCS still wanted to provide clothing assistance for those in need but in a more accessible way.

“We are very, very committed to the whole arena of clothing assistance for people that we serve and for the broader community,” said Paula Goldstein, president and CEO of JFCS. “We also are really committed to members of the community being able to make donations to us because they find it so meaningful. So we never contemplated being out of this arena once we got started.”

While she is sad about the boutique closing, she said the synergies between JFCS and Our Closet were “phenomenal” and the merger presented an opportunity to reach clients where they are without them traveling to the Northeast.

Through the merger, Our Closet-Powered by JFCS is able to continue serving the community while adopting one of Our Closet’s signature programs: pop-up shops.

The pop-up shops — organized and displayed like a traditional clothing store — are held seven times a month and have nine partner sites across the city. The next one is Dec. 9 at the Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion.

A key component to the pop-ups aligns with Aschkenasy’s core goal: providing clothing to those who need it with dignity and respect.

After working in New York as an attorney, Aschkenasy switched gears once she moved to Philadelphia and started looking to move into the nonprofit world.

She noticed that clothing assistance was a pressing community need. One factor she noticed that created another obstacle was eligibility.

With Our Closet, and now with the merger, there are no eligibility requirements so as to better fulfill the goal of providing clothes to those who need them.

“If we can take the red tape out of this one and make it easy for somebody to fulfill the basic need of clothing and give them some competence and dignity in the process, maybe all those other things stressing them out in their lives may come a little bit easier,” she said.

For Aschkenasy, dignity plays a big role.

By having volunteer sales associates give individualized attention to help someone find clothes that make them feel good, the experience becomes more fulfilling than if that person just walked out with a sweater they found and didn’t try on, she said.

“That inflated self of sense and confidence you gained from the dignity of the experience is what’s going take you to your other struggles and lead to your success,” Aschkenasy said.

For a pop-up shop schedule and information about clothing donation drop-off sites, visit ourclosetpa.org.

Contact: mstern@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0740