A shared closet takes a whole new meaning in Kenmore at the Ken-Ton Closet on Sheridan Parkside Drive. The closet allows kids from the Village of Kenmore and the Town of Tonawanda to come pick out three-four outfits of their choice, some shoes, school supplies, and other toiletries they need twice a month-- for free.
The supplies are for kids 0-18 years-old and all of the materials are donated or given to the closet.
“It is really nice that they can get a lot of things, not just a couple of pieces," Gabrielle Smolinski, a mother and two-year shopper at The Ken-Ton Closet said. "They can really have a wide variety and feel comfortable in their own skin when they go back to school. I am so grateful I have found a place like this."
The closet opened up in 2013 with the focus on winter coats. Now the shop has expanded to all sorts of clothing for boys and girls, children's books, backpacks filled with school supplies, and toiletries that the kids use every day.
"The program started and it was all about investing in our community," Jill O'Malley, the Executive Director and Founder of The Ken-Ton Closet said. "Imagine what it feels like for a kid to know that people that they never met in their own community care about their success and want them to have the basics and it really just makes our community stronger."
Helping over a 1000 kids a year, O'Malley has seen the kids getting involved in the giving as well. She says she has seen more kids want to help donate and give the clothes they do not need to others.
“We have seen this huge resurgence of interest in this young population of helping their own companions in their own age group," O'Malley said. "It’s just awesome to think that so many people care about the kids here."
O'Malley added that two girls donated their own birthday gifts to the closet and two boys created a hot dog stand where all the profits went to the store. The community really loves to help and get involved as much as they can O'Malley said.
"We are trying to change the mentality too," O'Malley added. "It's not just about socioeconomic need, we want to keep things out of landfill and being smart about re-using what you have."
In order to shop at the closet, people have to be residents of the Village of Kenmore and the Town of Tonawanda and can only shop once every two months. Donations are always welcome and volunteers encourage anyone to visit the closet to help give back. They have a GoFundMe page for monetary donations as well.
In order for kids to receive school supplies the parents or guardians need to sign up here through the Ken-Ton Closet website.
The Ken-Ton Closet is open Tuesdays and Thursdays 10am-4pm.