Lincoln Jackson Family Center staff start clothing program

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Mary Helen Urioste, back, and Jane Chavez wheel a donation out of the back room of the thrift store on Cannon Air Force Base. The women work with the clothing closet at Lincoln-Jackson Family Center.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

The staff at Lincoln-Jackson Family Center has found another way to help families in need.

The school houses federal programs such as Family Services and Title I Migrant and now keeps up a clothing closet.

Mary Helen Urioste, family services liaison, and Jane Chavez, Title I migrant liaison, run the clothing closet with the help of volunteers.

Urioste said the only requirement for families to benefit from the free services at the clothing closet is they have a child enrolled in the Clovis Municipal Schools system.

With Urioste, Chavez and a few volunteers keeping up the room, the clothing closet is most in need of donations. Which is why they jumped at the chance to work with the thrift store at Cannon Air Force Base.

Someone donated boxes of clothes at the thrift store but earmarked them for the community off base.

Melissa Clifford, thrift shop manager, said the store will honor any requests to pass donations on to another entity. Clifford said Cannon families new to town don’t always know where to take their donations.

“We’re going after the same mission,” Clifford said. “Which is to help the families.”

Clifford said the thrift store is also down on donations but believes it is largely because of a recent relocation. The thrift store moved to building 310, in front of the post office.

“I think everyone is holding on to stuff because of the economy too,” she said.

The thrift store has been combined with Airman’s Attic, which are run by the Cannon Spouses Club, and proceeds go to scholarships for military dependents. The thrift store will also furnish active duty airman with three free used uniforms a month.

Both groups agreed the thrift stores are bridges to other resources for families in the community.

Urioste said when families come into the clothing closet, she and Chavez can inform them of other services available to them. The clothing closet provides a non-threatening environment for families where the staff can gain their trust and better help them, Urioste said.

“Everything is confidential,” she said.

If the family is in need of a certain item, Urioste has been known to send out e-mails asking for help filling the need.

“Most of the time when people come to us, everything is a necessity,” Urioste said. “If the can use it, we tell them to take it.”

Families enrolled in the Family Literacy Program can work in the closet to make up for leadership institute classes they miss. Parents can also work for a day at Faith Christian Family Church to gain $50 towards a utility bill, if needed.

“This kind of thing puts responsibility back on the parent,” Urioste said. “Their responsibility is to try and resolve whatever issue is causing them to come to us.”

One volunteer went through the Family Literacy program with one of her five children and decided to volunteer at the clothing closet to give back.

Nikole Trujillo has worked at the closet more than three years.

“When you see the families that go in there and realize how much help they need, you realize how lucky you are to have the life you have,” Trujillo said. “Even though all I’m doing is hanging up clothes, we’re really helping them.”

Trujillo said the staff of the closet sets families up with as much as they can and gets them to the right programs that can help them.

Urioste said donations come from various sources including churches, veteran organizations and individuals.