Coat rack outside Downtown cafe provides warm clothes at no cost

If you have ever passed by the front door of Take Root Cafe during the chilly months, you might have noticed a coat rack sitting beside the entrance. If you are like me you might not have given it much thought as you raced to the counter to order a bowl of miso ramen to warm yourself up.

Just like Take Root’s mission of serving food on a pay-what-you-can basis, the coat rack is designed to help people in the community by offering jackets, sweatshirts and winter coats at no cost for those who need them.

“It seemed like it fit with our main mission to create a more compassionate, thriving and economically strong community,” said Jessica Parks, Take Root Cafe’s executive director. “Just like how we want food accessible to everyone, we want to make sure things like winter coats and clothing are accessible to everyone regardless of income.”

Parks said the coat rack is available during any time of day, including the hours Take Root Cafe is not open.

People can also leave a coat if they have an extra one they won’t use. The rack also needs hangers, which Parks said many people do not think about donating. When people take coats, they often take the hanger as well, which leads to a shortage of hangers. Other winter attire such as scarves, hats and gloves are accepted as well.

One of the main donors is the organization that began this coat rack. The Clothes Closet’s main mission is to provide clothes, at no cost, to those in the community who need them.

“Coats are in such demand here that we couldn’t keep up in the closet, so we thought let’s give it a shot,” said Clothes Closet manager Brenda Martin.

Martin said she contacted many different organizations in the community to get this initiative started, and Take Root was the only one to reply.

The coat rack does not run all year. Martin said Take Root Cafe puts the coat rack out around the middle of September, depending on the weather, and it will stay out until about the middle of April. During the cool fall and spring weather, the coat rack is stocked with light jackets and sweatshirts, and during the colder winter months, they replace those with thicker coats.

“This winter we’ve had difficulty keeping it stocked, which tells me that we either have a lot more people taking coats or a lot fewer people giving coats,” Martin said.

The Clothes Closet, Martin said, will continue the coat rack mission indefinitely as long as someone is there to coordinate it.

Elisabeth Shirk is a sophomore French and communication major. She is Truman Media Network’s opinions and features editor.