CHOP primary care offices partner with Our Closet to give patients’ closets a boost with free clothes.

Kids showing off their new clothesDanna went from table to table in a conference room at CHOP's Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pediatric Care Center in West Philadelphia. Each table was covered with neatly folded children’s clothing, separated by size. In one corner, a rack was full of coats; another was packed with dresses and skirts.

She picked out a toddler’s pair of pants and some shirts for her 2-year-old son, Cin’er, while her 5-year-old, Jah-mir, called for her attention: “Mommy! Here’s a Mickey Mouse shirt!”

They were shopping at a pop-up shop held at their CHOP primary care office by Our Closet, a nonprofit created to provide gently used clothing to adults and children. The pop-ups held at CHOP exclusively offer kids' clothes. Each adult who comes to shop can pick out 10 articles of clothing, including shoes, boots and accessories. Everything is free.

With help from a mother-daughter team of volunteer personal shoppers, Danna found coats, gloves and play clothes for both her sons. (Sorry, Jah-mir, the Mickey Mouse shirt didn’t make the cut.) They wore the coats home and another volunteer carefully packed away the rest of the items in Our Closet shopping bags.

“I think this is so good, so nice what they do for us,” Danna says, as she wheeled the stroller out. “It really helps.”

Helping is what Our Closet founder and Executive Director Jill Aschkenasy had in mind when she envisioned the charity in 2011. Unlike other programs, families don’t need a referral, and there are no eligibility requirements.

“We do pop-up shops vs. having a brick-and-mortar store. We come to where people are, instead of making them come to us,” Aschkenasy says.

For the first few years, all of Our Closet’s pop-up shops offered both adult and children’s clothing. But Aschkenasy noticed that parents were torn between selecting clothing for themselves or clothes for their kids.

In 2015, Aschkenasy and Steve Wilmot, Senior Director of the CHOP Care Network, connected and decided the primary care locations in Philadelphia would be perfect locations for kids-only pop-up shops. They began with shops at Karabots and Cobbs Creek in 2016, and later added South Philadelphia. Now, Our Closet rotates between the three offices, holding one CHOP pop-up shop a month. Each pop-up shop serves at least 50 families and gives away 500 articles of clothing.

“We want to do as much as we can for our families, many of whom face the incredible forces of poverty,” Wilmot says. “This is a wonderful service for them. The quality and quantity of clothing are really great. The Our Closet volunteers engage with families and make it a very personalized, very dignified experience.”

Each adult is given a ticket and waits their turn to shop, so the shopping area doesn’t get overcrowded. Volunteer personal shoppers greet each adult — and their children, if they’re with them — ask what type and size of clothing they’re looking for and assist as they find the appropriate items. Once items are selected, shoppers “check out” at a counter, where items are folded and put in branded Our Closet bags — “just like at a department store,” Aschkenasy says. “The feedback we get is that people really appreciate the experience, the respectfulness of it.”

Marcella was all smiles as she checked out after picking five items each for her 6-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter.

“We were at CHOP for an appointment and learned about it,” she says. “This is my second time coming, and each time they have had some really nice stuff to pick from. I got lucky today with a pair of shoes and a pair of boots in the right sizes.

“I’m thankful for CHOP making this available. It’s been a real blessing for my family.”

Pop-up shops at CHOP

  • Zero eligibility or referral needed to receive clothing
  • 10 articles of clothes for each family — free of charge
  • 12 pop-ups at CHOP locations per year
  • 50 families served per shop
  • 100% kids-only clothing
  • 6,000 articles of clothes given away annually at CHOP Pop-ups

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