EL CENTRO — The presence of needy people in the community often sparks the latent kindness and generosity in hearts to provide for their needs, no matter how temporary it may be. And this truth became evident during the Christmas season as a local family arranged to give away clothing to many needy families.
Before noontime on Thursday, Dec. 28, mothers and their children, plus a few men, lined up next to El Centro’s Grace Lutheran Church marquee for the Cody’s Closet clothes giveaway. They were eager to get a glimpse from the entrance and, hopefully get the first choice of clothing items for their families. Plastic grocery bags were provided by volunteers as people entered the hall at the corner of Eighth Street and Holt Avenue in El Centro
Maria Hernandez got in line with her two young children, Angelo and Athena. She said, “Well, I’m here with the family because they’ve passed on the word that there is clothes-giving, so I came here for the event.”
Inside the hall were about a dozen tables displaying mountains of clothes that were folded according to the categories of men, women and children. On one corner of the hall were shoes, in a variety of sizes, lying on the floor. On the kitchen table at the far end of the hall, non-perishable canned food items were available and ready. Cody’s Closet opened at noon and ended one hour later.
Janine Juarez, another El Centro resident, brought her youngest of three children. “I saw the advertisement. And I really appreciate that there are places that give out clothes for people that are in need,” she said.
Juarez was searching for clothing to withstand the cold weather. Moving from one table to another, she found shirts, jackets, and dresses for her children. She even found one item for herself. “I found a shirt,” Juarez said.
Heather White started Cody’s Closet with her family to provide a transfer of items from those with abundance to those without. “We give away anything that gets donated to us —whether it be food, clothes, shoes — for anybody and everybody that needs anything,” White said.
She expected about 50 visits from needy individuals. “People come from all over the Valley for this. And it’s open and free to anybody who wants to come,” she said.
White said Cody’s Closet began as a personal commitment to a random act of kindness.
“A year ago, I did something nice for somebody, every day,” she explained. “It’s called my 365 days of kindness. And people caught on to that because I posted it on Facebook. And so, I’ve been overwhelmed with donations. I’ve been trying to get them out to whoever needs them. I help the veterans. I help Real Hope Center and anyone that can use them.”
After much family deliberation, Cody’s Closet was born. “I have a child who is a little OCD and he couldn’t handle all the donations at our house. So this summer, we got together while we were on vacation and came up with the idea to have the clothing giveaways in different cities. The name does seem kind of catchy. Like the one who is bugging me the most. So we called it Cody’s Closet.” It was named after her son, Cody White, 16.
Cody is a junior at Central Union High School. His sister, Lindsay, 17, is a senior. His younger brother, Reilly, 15, is a sophomore. The siblings often get help from their friends to run the giveaway, but the family also receives help from the community.
Twelve volunteers from the Sober Living and Mental Wellness Home came in to help with the distribution, according to Mario Rios, home care/caretaker/coordinator. They, too, had the opportunity to select clothes.
“We have participants that are coming from being homeless and their resources are limited, they don’t have enough clothes,” said Rios.
As social awareness of people in dire need of clothing spreads, there is also a need to extend the services of Cody’s Closet to neighboring cities. However, this is dependent upon the availability of a facility to host the giveaway, said White.
White appealed to readers of this publication. “If anyone would like to donate any clothing, they can contact me, Heather White, at 760-353-1789.”