Started as a clothing drive, now a club on campus

By Annette Quijada

The East Los Angeles College Student Pop Up Closet is now its own individual club on campus.

The purpose of the Student Pop Up Closet is to service students who are at risk of basic needs and clothing insecurities. Students can take 10 pieces of clothing a day when the closet is open. 

The Student Pop Up Closet was first created by the Sociology Club, but it has branched out since then.

ELAC Sociology professor Renato Jimenez is one of the advisors who was heavily involved when the pop-up closet first made its debut. 

Jimenez said his relationship with closet was hands on prior to the pandemic; he has now taken a step back and has let student founder Christopher Olivares and other students take over.

“I think the Student Pop Up closet being its own club is a great benefit. In terms of recognition and funding, it’s a great idea that it’s now its separate entity,” Jimenez said. 

Jimenez said he is looking forward to the pop-up closet to continue to support the student body as well as an expansion in services. 

The closet currently resides in the Learning Center, building E3-280. Right now the club has over 10 ambassadors who are actively involved. Olivares said he is in talks with the ELAC president to find a more permanent and spacious store front for the closet. 

On March 21, the pop-up closet reached one year of being a resource to over 1,000 students. 

Students who are looking to donate can come to the learning center and drop off items in a bin outside of the centers entryway. 

“We receive at least 200 lbs. of donations a week, right now we [have] over 5,000 lbs. of clothes,” Olivares said.

Clothing offered includes women, men and children. 

Olivares said they are in dire need of more men’s clothing. Sometimes the closet gets donations of clothes that they aren’t able to use and instead they recycle them. 

“We don’t throw any clothing away. We have a section of bins that we put clothing in to recycle and we use those clothes to make reusable shopping bags,” Olivares said. 

Not only does the club offer free clothing to ELAC and South Gate Campus students, but they also provide free hygienic supplies. The club constantly works with other programs and clubs on campus such as the LGBTQ Pride Center, the Career Center and the Early Childhood Education Center. 

Club ambassador Evelyn Toledo wants more students to take advantage of the free resources they provide.

“Not only do we promote our project, but we also make connections with other clubs on campus. Not many students know we have other free resources; we also help students get connected,” Toledo said. 

One of the departments the pop-up closet works closely with is athletics. Back in March, the club decided to get together and feed the student athletes breakfast. Since then they have fed the athletics department once a month. 

“The most needed area is the athletes. 42% of students who are at risk of not having funding for clothing, food or even housing come from the athletics department,” Olivares said.

Club ambassador Michael Rabelero is in charge of promoting the club’s services in the athletics deparment and keeping their relationship strong. On June 19, the pop up closet will serve smoothies to the athletic department’s students.

Olivares said they will be opening up a volunteer application with guidelines. There are a few members of other clubs who come out to volunteer, but they would like to get more people involved.

Olivares said right now they are talking to a couple of non-profits to cosponsor and help with funding. 

“The final goal for the closet is to turn into a program and eventually turn into a non-profit,” Olivares said. 

Olivares said their plan as a non-profit will be to help other community colleges, universities and K-12 schools across the county and state to start their own closets and get the resources they need. 

ELAC student Yanina Ramos came by the learning center to see what clothes she can pick up.

“The closet is very helpful, especially now that I’m in my clinical internship. Everything that I’m wearing right now, including the shoes are from the pop-up closet,” Ramos said. 

During the upcoming fall the closet offer mending services. Students who have clothes that need to be mended can come into the Learning Center and get their clothes fixed. 

“Anyone who feels hesitant to ask for help, feels like they’re in a position where people will belittle them or look down upon them, I want students to get rid of those thoughts. 

Sometimes all you need is a nice clean shirt to feel a little bit empowered. I encourage students who feel that way to go out and seek this support system,” Jimenez said. 

Starting this week, the closet will be open, the ELAC main campus on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. until the end of July.  

At the South Gate campus the closet is open Tuesday and Wednesday mornings plus Wednesday nights. 

Olivares said he hopes they’re able to become more present at the South Gate Campus this upcoming fall and spring of 2024. 

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