The Peninsula Clothes Closet is something of a hidden treasure. It doesn’t get a lot of publicity, and you probably won’t see its beneficiaries featured on the local news. That’s because the people served by this charity benefit from it in a very personal and private way. When mental health patients are at their lowest, the simplest acts of kindness can make a big difference by bringing encouragement, and bolstering self-esteem.
“Many of our patients arrive without proper attire, sometimes jail fatigues or a hospital gown,” coordinator Susan Bourdeau says. “Clean, safe, comfortable clothing means the world to them – it’s a matter of human decency.”
Bourdeau explains that many patients at Peninsula are homeless. Donated clothing is more than just a kind gesture, it’s a deeply appreciated gift. Some patients have suffered complete breakdowns, some have been suicidal, and others have lost all connections with family and friends due to chemical dependency.
Bordeau says she never knows from one day to the next what kind of donations she’s going to receive, but somehow they always turn out to be the right ones. She becomes emotional when she talks about it. “Some days I’ll have nothing,” Bourdeau says. “I’ll say a little prayer, I’ll come in, and something will be here, and it’s just the size I need.”
To be able to walk into a room filled with clothing and walk out with something clean, in good condition, and appropriate for life outside the hospital is an important part of a new beginning. It’s preparation for a first step out into the real world, made a little less daunting by the kindness of strangers.
For Bourdeau, working with clothes is a perfect fit. A wardrobe stylist and makeup artist by trade, Bourdeau has worked on video and stage projects in various areas of the southeast, most frequently in Knoxville, TN and Miami, FL.
“A decent article of clothing, a clean shirt and pants, a warm jacket, shoes without holes – these are the things that keep us human,” Bourdeau says. “These are the things that make a world of difference to someone that has just gone through a major struggle. It’s life changing.”
Bourdeau is always in need of donations for the Peninsula Clothes Closet, particularly casual clothing in smaller and larger sizes. Dress clothing isn’t needed, because the primary purpose of the Clothes Closet is simply to outfit patients to return home.
“I’m always looking for t-shirts, jeans, sweaters, and sweats,” Bourdeau says. Clothing items for children and teenagers are needed, as well as clothing for adults.
Bourdeau also accepts donations of gently used bras and new undergarments. Comfortable, practical shoes are needed, clean and in good condition.
Donations may be dropped off at Peninsula, or either of two locations in Bearden – Laura’s Nail Salon and Lisa Jean’s Restaurant, both on Kingston Pike. To learn more about the Peninsula Clothes Closet or how to donate, call (865) 970-9800. For information about volunteer opportunities at Peninsula or Parkwest Medical Center, visit treatedwell.com/volunteers, or call (865) 373-1556.