Local church provides free clothing to children in need

Children's Clothes Closet aims to address local poverty

The most recent data shows one in six people in La Crosse County are living in poverty, and for parents, finding affordable clothing for their kids can be a challenge.

For about five years, Trinity Luther Church in La Crosse has held what is called the Children’s Clothes Closet. The project aims to provide free clothing to children, from infants through the 6th grade, to those who need it the most.

“One of the primary needs, believe it or not, are clothes and shoes here on the north side in the 21st century,” said Pastor Erik Feig of Trinity Lutheran Church.

The church began the Children’s Clothes Closet in response to a local teacher’s call for help.

“The teachers try to get them clothes, but we don’t have the time, we don’t have the space, so we started out in a little closet downstairs,” said Bill Schilla, co-manager for the program.

In the years since, it’s become much more.

“We started out with just a few boxes and a few outfits and that was it,” said Schilla. “Now we got two rooms filled with clothes.”

“We have lines out the door when it’s open,” said Feig. “We have people calling all week long asking what’s available. We have the school calling us during the week saying, ‘We just noticed a kid who doesn’t have a winter jacket and they are out on the playground, do you happen to have one?'”

Through local grants and donations, new and used clothing is available for children for free every week.

“To have families come in, they don’t know what to expect, and to have them be greeted by someone that actually cares about them as a human being, and then to proceed to provide them with clothes or a new pair of shoes or boots, or a winter jacket, to see the expressions on their face of just pure amazement of joy of thankfulness,” said Feig.

While it may be a simple gift, for the church, it’s about giving back.

“I guess it just follows two basic commandments we got,” said Schilla. “Love God and love your neighbor, and this is how we show we love our neighbor.”

“The Children’s Clothes Center is just one simple way we can help our community with some of the needs here,” said Feig. “It’s an expression of our faith and expression of what we believe in, as a church.”

Funding for the program comes from grants through the Franke Foundation and Souls for Soles, as well as donations from church members. Organizers say at this time, they are in need of jeans as well as winter clothing.

The Children’s Clothes Closet is open on Mondays starting Jan. 4th from 4:00 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.
Anyone in need, including people who are not members of the church, are welcome to use the facility.