Expanded Interfaith Works Clothing Center Lifts Up Lives

Ribbon Cutting at Interfaith Works Clothing Center on May 8, 2017. County Executive Ike Leggett holds the scissors. To his left Montgomery County Councilmembers Nancy Floreen, Roger Berliner, & Sidney Katz. Rockville Mayor Bridget Newton and Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr. On his right, Interfaith Works Clothing Center Director Monica Barberis-Young , IW Chief Executive Officer Shane Rock, Suzanne Lofhjelm of Senator Van Hollen’s office.

What if you were a licensed nurse who suddenly had health issues of your own while serving as the sole caretaker for a son with autism? This is exactly what Joann faced when vertigo and anxiety became so overwhelming that she lost everything and found herself homeless.

Yesterday at the ribbon cutting for the newly-expanded Interfaith Works Clothing Center on Twinbrook Parkway, Joann shared her story, “Interfaith Works picked me up from the ground to where I am today. I don’t worry anymore. The clothes I have on today, my rent, Medicare, and moral support, all come from Interfaith Works.”

Joann and her son at the ribbon cutting

“I can come to one place for all the services. What more could a person ask for?” emphasized Joann with a wide smile. “My caseworker fills out the applications, dots the i’s and crosses the t’s. I heard Interfaith Works was the best, and I know firsthand it is the best.'”

Interfaith Works Clothing Center moved the clothing center upstairs to an expanded, light-filled space where families in need are now able to do more than shop for free clothing and home items. The new center will offer access to job training resources, English classes, and a computer lab. Combining the mission to provide clothing with the emphasis on job training has resulted in a “Dress To Impress” section providing appropriate professional clothing for job seekers.

A flowering display Inside the Interfaith Works Clothing Center.

“The clothing store is like a boutique. All the employees are good and patient. I can get bedding, pillow cases, shoes, and handbags,” explained Joann.

Before the ribbon cutting, Interfaith Works Chief Executive Officer, Shane Rock, expressed the same sentiment, “This is not just a free clothing center. It’s a beautiful showroom with clothing displayed as it would be in a fine retail store.”

Rock explained that eventually all of their clients will receive a debit card loaded with IW dollars (based on their family size) to spend on market-priced items.  When family members participate in the Center’s educational classes and case management services, additional IW dollars will be earned. All of the services aim to help the families escape poverty.

“The real key to Interfaith Works is not solely in the building itself. It is in the people. The people that we serve. The people that need our help and support, and the people who volunteer,” said Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett before later adding, “I am delighted that this is a comprehensive approach.”

“Poverty in Montgomery County is real and it is growing,” Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner pointed out, “What we need is more organizations like this that don’t just do a hand out, but give a hand up. That’s what people need. That’s what respect and dignity is all about. Giving people the tools they need to change their lives.”

“Our goal should be nothing less than having the lowest poverty rate in the State of Maryland and that is not true today, but it would be true if we could move 17,000 residents of our County out of poverty,” added Berliner.

Montgomery Councilmember Nancy Floreen was credited with successfully advocating for the removal of “a lot of other stuff” in the building to make way for the expanded Center.

“I love it when I go to something like this and I can’t find a place to park,” joked Floreen, “I can’t find a place to park because of all the people who contribute to this, in one way or the other, are here to celebrate a community event and it’s really very inspiring that we have such a great community.”

Director of the Interfaith Works Clothing Center, Monica Barberis-Young, expressing appreciation to all who made the new Center possible. The MC of the event, Yahav Lachovizer, stands behind her. He started volunteering at the Center when he was 12 years old and will go off to college this fall. He was given a job at the Center and in the last two years c0mpleted 1,000 hours of service.

“As we open the doors of the new Interfaith Works Clothing Center, not only can I think of a dream come true but, more importantly, of the world of possibilities that this Center will offer to the most vulnerable in our community,” said  Director Monica Barberis-Young, “Possibilities that will allow 13,500 Montgomery County residents to dream and feel supported and empowered to be the best that they be, not only for themselves, but for their children.”

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