Struggling to keep Keeper’s Closet alive

Keepers Closet

Faced with more babies in need and rising overhead, a struggling nonprofit that clothes and feeds Gilroy newborns is appealing for financial help to continue its work with the city’s needy.
Hundreds of appeal letters have been mailed to Gilroyans and more are on the way in an attempt to keep doors open at The Keeper’s Closet.
Founder Brian Cunningham and his wife, Peggy, have given more than $100,000 of their own pockets in just over two years to start and maintain the tiny organization, the former Gilroy City Councilman said Tuesday.
But ever since demand for KC’s help to families took off in late 2015, expenses have outstripped the couple’s ability to continue without assistance from others, he said.
“It just became clear to us that is was not sustainable, that we needed help from people who, like us, see it as important to help those who have nothing.
“Our goal is to raise $25,000 in this calendar year, so we have roughly six and a half months to go,” said Cunningham, a long-time Gilroy resident and retired lawyer. He has volunteered his time and resources for decades to help the clothe the needy, shelter the homeless and feed the hungry—turning his sights in February 2015 to newborns and toddlers.
“If we cannot raise the funds, then we will try to continue on a highly reduced basis,” he said.
The first 500 of what could be as many as 1,000 letters appealing for financial donations has been mailed to Gilroy homes and businesses, he said.
Keeper’s Closet accepts donations of and distributes free to needy families new and gently used clothing, shoes and other baby needs for newborns to toddlers.
They also accept and give away cribs, strollers, car seats, bassinets and other related items.
And through an agreement reached last year with Second Harvest Food Bank and St. Joseph’s Family Center, KC also is a distribution point for emergency and supplemental food supplies.
And while donations of items to KC have been robust, the need now is for cash, according to Cunningham and Rochelle Henson, KC’s part-time outreach manager and sole employee.
The organization was created to meet a need and helps people who are in desperate situations, some facing sudden hardship, others homeless or so overwhelmed by bills that their children show up barefoot at KC distribution events that happen four or more times a year.
The need is even greater than anticipated when he began, Cunningham said.
Last year, KC helped 875 children and the figure keeps climbing.
“That number has increased on an annualized basis this year,” he said, projecting it will reach between 900 and 1,000 babies and toddlers by year’s end.
“We know there is a need because we see it,” Cunningham said.
And they will see it again on Saturday, June 17, when the next distribution takes places from 9 a.m. to noon at the KC Gilroy offices at 1335 First St., Suite E, across from Mama Mia’s restaurant.
“We lighten the load for people,” Hanson said. “Sometimes they come in feeling defeated and when they leave I can tell they are uplifted, they realize there is still hope.”
Donors of clothing, diapers and other items are always welcome, but those items don’t pay for rent, utilities, fuel, phone bills and supplies, according to Cunningham and Hanson.
And some of the items that are most expensive for the needy, such as diapers, often have to be purchased, Hanson said.
She knows the future is as uncertain right now as the need is certain.
“If we are not able to raise enough money, I don’t know what the future of Keeper’s Closet would be, she said.
Cunningham said, “If it is not sustainable in the final analysis, we’d have to close it down.”
If you want to help, The Keeper’s Closet can be reached at (408) 847-2018 or via email at [email protected]
The website is at www.keeperscloset.com. The group’s popular Facebook page is at www.facebook.com/TheKeepersCloset/.

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