BOISE, Idaho — Have you heard about The Closet? It's located in a strip mall on Fairview Avenue in Boise. It looks like a teen retail shop, and it is. But, it's so much more than that. It's a nonprofit organization that provides free clothing to teens in need in 6th through 12th grades in Ada County. Kelly McMurry is the founder, and the heart and soul of The Closet.
"I started The Closet in 2010, just a need to give back to our community, I felt that teens were kind of a forgotten population," said McMurry. "We don't really pour into kids the way we do the younger kids."
Teenagers in need come in and get a private one-hour shopping appointment with Kelly or one of her wonderful volunteers. Teens are referred to The Closet in several ways, by their school counselors, the Department of Juvenile Corrections, through our local homeless shelters, and foster care agencies.
"One of the things that's really critical for teens is how they look, and when they are going to school they want to fit in, they want to be wearing things that other people are wearing, and we have that stuff," said McMurry. "They get to pick out things they like and get to leave with a big bag of clothing items of their choice."
The racks are filled with the latest trends and clothes you'll find at any mall store. McMurry says teens may come in nervous about the visit, but that fades quickly.
"Once they get shopping in the room and see the name brands that other kids are wearing and things that they want to wear, they start to loosen up," said McMurry. "They start to see that this is a safe place to be! It doesn't take but 10 minutes of being in this room and seeing our inventory to say this place is cool, really cool."
All of the clothes and accessories at The Closet are donated by our community, by local stores, and even major companies.
"We offer seriously amazing stuff, our community is amazing in what they provide to us! Nike is a supporter to me so every teen gets a new pair of Nikes, that kind of seals the deal right there," said McMurry.
The teenagers who come to The Closet sign a wall in the store before they go, a tradition McMurry started early on. Some of the teens write a heartfelt message too. It's something that means so much to her. The wall keeps filling up, and McMurry keeps adding panels. She says she will never get rid of any of those precious signatures.
The Closet accepts cash donations too, and there's one that really stands out this year! That's where Sara Wells comes into this story.
Wells is a food blogger and Instagram influencer (@sara_ourbestbites) who lives right here in our community.
"Most of my platform is focused around food but encompasses family and garden and community," said Sara Wells. "We come together for causes, and there's a lot of discussion and communication there, also it's just a great community that's grown over the years."
McMurry remembers getting a phone call from Sara, asking if she could bring a group of girls from her church over to The Closet. The girls wanted to donate some of their gently used clothing items. Wells brought the girls in the shop, and they were blown away.
"They loved it, they thought it was so amazing and they were so inspired by the work Kelly was doing," said Wells.
Sara was just as impressed so she decided to try to raise some money for Kelly with help from her Instagram followers. She shared what The Closet was all about in one of her stories on the social media platform.
"I put a screenshot of my Venmo account on there and I said I'd love to give Kelly a little gift. If you were inspired by her story like I was, and if you'd like to help make magic for teens in our community, just a shoot a couple dollars my way and people did! My followers come from all over the country and people just opened up their hearts," Wells told us.
In 24 hours time, donations rolled in. Sara couldn't believe it when she added up all the money that came in.
"It was $20,000," said Wells with a huge smile. "I was so excited!"
At first, McMurry couldn't believe what she was seeing.
"So, Sara came in here, and I'm not kidding you, so casually, she walks in and I open the envelope, and initially looked at the dollar amount, and I saw $200, I saw two and a bunch of zeros. So, I thought it was $200 and that was a huge blessing to me," said McMurry. "I look at the written amount and it said $20,000! I looked up at her, she's just standing there beaming at me, I said Sarah it says $20,000! She said 'yes, it does.' I said no it doesn't, and she said 'yes it does.' I was so overwhelmed, I have never received a check that large! How beautiful to think that she has followers that all chipped in and within hours, 24 hours, she came up with $20,000, that's a big deal!"
Sara wrote the name of each of her Instagram donors on a special card and laminated it for Kelly. It now hangs proudly in the shop with hundreds of signatures.
"What an amazing thing you can accomplish when a lot of people come together, it really turns into something big," said Wells.
Kelly McMurry says that money is a huge blessing to The Closet, with such a special story behind it.
"It just opened up the doors to a lot of things that can now be possible for us. I am so grateful."
The Closet is set up to assist 6th-12th grade Ada County teens in need. All visits to The Closet are by appointment only. If you do not have a referral, and you have a teen in need, please call (208) 409-0204 to be screened and to schedule a private appointment to shop.
As far as donations go, an appointment is not required, and The Closet encourages all clothing donations be brought to the store any Wednesday morning between 9:30 a.m. - 12:30. p.m. If that time is not convenient, you can call (208) 409-0204 to coordinate another option.
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