​Grundy County Clothes Bank’s Housing Woes

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
Three months ago, Grundy County Clothes Bank coordinator Ruth Alexander learned the clothes bank’s home and base of operations had been condemned.
“Everything had been running smoothly,” said Alexander, who, 13 years ago assumed responsibility for coordinating collection and distribution of the clothes and assorted housewares offered by the clothes bank.
For the last three months the clothes bank, officially Grundy County Clothes, has been closed.
To resolve the charity’s need for a building, the town of Tracy City agreed to let the clothes bank operate out of a house located behind the old Grundy County High School on property the city purchased from Grundy County. At the previous site, then owned by the county, the county paid the water and electric bills.
Alexander asked Tracy City for help paying utilities at the new site, but the city lacked funds to assist the charity.
Worse still, all the wiring had been stripped from the house the city offered to let the clothes bank use.
“We worked ourselves near to death scrubbing and painting,” said the 74-year-old Alexander. Alston Sanders donated his services rewiring the building. For the building to pass inspection, though, a volunteer is needed to install the breaker box recently donated to the charity.
Alexander and the two volunteers who assist her also need help moving the many racks of clothing and other items to the new site.
The clothes bank doesn’t screen clients. “We welcome everybody and anybody,” Alexander said. “We tell people ‘Take what you can use.’” But Alexander stressed, “It’s not for your yard sale,” scolding those who might consider reselling clothes bank offerings.
In addition to clothes, the charity distributes dishes, silverware, food, and even a few furniture items. Normal hours of operation are 8 a.m. to noon, Thursday and Friday.
Joyce Parsons assists Alexander with sorting and racking, and Bill Brooks helps with maintenance. Teen Challenge, a local youth group, distributes off-season clothes to individuals in need when the inventory exceeds the space available.
“We have a donation box,” Alexander said, “but we’re lucky if we get $10 a month. People begged me to get the clothes bank open again before Christmas.”
Alexander is a fighter who has survived breast cancer and lovingly welcomes the challenges of raising her five-year-old granddaughter. She’s offered to pay the clothes bank’s utilities bills herself to get the effort up and running again, but the unresolved electrical concerns need to be tackled first.
Grundy County Clothes could also benefit from help in addressing nonprofit status issues.
“We don’t have a bank account,” Alexander said. “We’re not a business. We’re just two old women and an old man giving back.”
In operation nearly 20 years, Grundy County Clothes wish list is for folks to step forward and help the charity get back on its feet. To offer time and skills to the big-hearted effort, contact Alexander at (931) 924-2484 or (423) 260-2656.