Features

Free community clothing closet coming to Joliet’s West side

Sims-Washington: ‘I’ve been down, and I’ve been up. So now I want to pay it forward’

A new community clothing closet will host its grand opening from noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 14 and Oct. 15 at 310 N. Hames LL1C in Joliet.

The clothing closet is hosted by I’ve Been Mended Inc., founded by Daphney Sims-Washington of Joliet. Anyone is welcome to come to the closet and “shop,” she said.

“The rule is you get six items and one pair of shoes,” Sims-Washington said. “If you express a bigger need, you have to make an appointment with us.”

Sims-Washington said she does charge for accessories or other items in the store.

“It’s what helps us pay our rent,” she said.

Sims-Washington said she recently received her 501c3 status after someone encouraged her to apply.

She previously gave away clothing from her home and did other outreach work, too, such as free Christmas dinners and food distributions, when her husband, Roy Washington, was alive. She and Roy often paid for the items, she said.

But even during the pandemic, Sims-Washington said she’d occasionally buy gift cards at a dollar store and then hand them out to the homeless.

“You can get a lot at the dollar store,” Sims-Washington said. “You can get shoes, clothes, hygiene items, food.”

Helping neighborhoods and the community

Sims-Washington opened her first clothing closet in April at community clothing closet at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Joliet this past spring. But because the closet location was not accessible, she began looking for a second location on Joliet’s West side.

“There are people in need in every area of Will County,” Sims-Washington said. “Not just on the East side.”

Sims-Washington said she’s hosted other ministry-related events at St. John, such as dance and entrepreneurial workshops and women’s conferences. She also has a community garden on the property, where she gives away produce to people in need.

Eventually, she’d like to open up a transitional home for women, she said.

Rev. Herb Brooks Jr., pastor at St. John, said he was happy to help out Sims-Washington’s ministry because it enhanced St. John’s ministry, especially with more people struggling financially since the pandemic began.

“I’m a firm believer that a church and ministry is in a neighborhood to help the neighborhood and help the community,” Brooks said. “Daphney helps me help the community in doing the things we are supposed to be doing,” Brooks said.

A legacy of outreach

Sims-Washington said she was just 5 years old in 1975 when her mother Ethel Sims, started the Ethel P. Sims Organization Charity Helping Hands, which Ethel ran until she died in 2002. Sims-Washington started an awards program in her mother’s name to honor local people.

The family lived on Richards Street and part of the three-car garage was turned into ministry space, Sims-Washington said.

“We had two and a half acres of land culture with vegetables and fruit,” Sims-Washington said. “She let people come with their baskets and get apples and grapes and vegetables.”

Sims-Washington said her parents raised their eight children – Sims-Washington is the youngest – as if they were living on a farm in the southern U.S.

“The first time I had real jelly was when I got married,” Sims-Washington said. “My mom canned everything.”

She gives the credit to her parents, as well as her aunt Artis Thompson (deceased), who was highly involved with Easter Seals.

“They built this lady who I am today,” Sims-Washington said.

Passing along the blessings

Sims-Washington understand people fall on tough times and go through challenges. Her own father, Lonnie Marvin Sims Sr., died of pancreatic cancer when she was 14. She’s been divorced and widowed. One son has died and, at the age of 51, she is raising a 7-year-old child with autism.

“Thank God I’ve got a lot of friends and family that pushed me to keep going,” Sims-Washington said. “I’ve been down, and I’ve been up. So now I want to pay it forward.”

Sims-Washington said she can extend the hours of the community clothing closet with more volunteers. Donations will help pay the rent, she said. Once IBM receives some funding, she’d like to buy a truck to use for picking up donations. She rents one, especially when picking up large donations, she said.

“I did use my car until it broke down,” Sims-Washington said.

People have warned Sims-Washington that people not in need might use her closet for free clothes. But she just shrugs it off. Maybe, “they’re just depressed and need to shop,” she said.

“We don’t care who’s coming,” Sims-Washington said. “The rule is six pieces per visit and one pair of shoes per week. That’s three outfits. If you need more – if you’ve had a fire – we’ll set up a time so you can get more.”

When Sims-Washington gets a windfall of donated items, she quickly shares. One time it was Brita pitchers and water filters, so she distributed them at a facility for low-income seniors, where she also has passed out donated blankets.

“Whatever we have to give, we give,” Sims-Washington said.

Another time it was an over-abundance of hand sanitizer, which she left at local churches with a note. Still another time it was pillows “and they were the expensive, Casper kind,” she said.

She’s picking up new rugs on Friday and giving them to the homeless who sleep outside in tents.

“Maybe with a rug on the bottom, they will be warmer,” she said.

For information, email ivebeenmendedinc@gmail.com, call 815-388-7888 or go to IBM Organization Inc. on Facebook.