Society for Healthcare
Has anyone started or had experience with maintaining a donated clothing closet -- a way to provide clothing for patients/families who need it? We would love to connect about best practices/learnings.
We maintain two identical clothing closets for patients in need, typically gym shorts, tshirts (long-sleeved and short-sleeved) and and tearaway workout pants. Much of it is donated by the Assistance League (Assistance League) so it's their project, but we also receive donations from staff. The AL volunteers come once a month to restock and organize. Each closet has a sign out sheet, so when employees come take something for a patient they record it which helps us track demand for the various items. The closets are locked; one is a keyed door and that key is kept in the charge nurse office. The other has a keypad. Since our patients are often with us for around 6-8 weeks, it's particularly helpful when seasons change and they need different clothing, or if someone has an accident and needs an immediate change of clothing.
We have had a clothing closet for several years. We take donated sweat pants, sweat shirts, T-shirts, socks, new unopened underwear & lap blankets, also flip flops. It is located near the chaplain's office and is unlocked, although that hallway is in a badge access only area. The volunteer patient advocates oversee it. Clothing is hung on racks by size, staff can go in anytime they need something and take it. The patient advocates sort donated items and we have an agreement with a local dry cleaning company who comes when we need them to pick it up & wash/dry and fold it and return it to us.
Our Clothing Closet is located in the hallway behind our office. VS staff and volunteers maintain the closet and can open the door during business hours, but after hours staff have to call Security. We’ve changed the process a bit over the years. Currently, patients and visitors are not allowed back to the closet (they were starting to treat it like a personal mall so thank God for Covid in that regard). We allow one outfit per patient (top, pants, socks, underwear, shoes) depending on their needs and what we have available. Often, patients only need one or two items. We do not track patient names, but we do have a log sheet where a tally is kept of patients/family members served and number of items taken out of the closet. We currently receive items through staff donations and there is a small line item in the Auxiliary budget for purchases. We are overhauling the clothing closet this summer and will be changing what we accept and buy to streamline things a bit.
People try to donate inappropriate things (dirty items, tore/stained, business clothes, dress shoes, etc) so we had to start going through donation bags in front of them and saying a quick yes or no. We don't have a way to wash things, so if it appears dirty it's a quick no. Moving forward, we'll only carry LS/SS tshirts, sweatshirts, yoga/pajama/sweatpants, socks, new underwear, and athletic shoes or flip flops. We don't take scrubs or other hospital uniform pieces so there is no confusion about who is or isn't on our team.
I could write a whole book on this closet (which at times I wish we could just get rid of because it can be a huge hassle), so if you want to chat about it sometime let me know. My best advice: make sure you set it up well at the beginning, have dedicated staff who want to actually be in charge of it, and proceed with caution.
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