Posted: February 25, 2015 at 10:48 pm
By Alexa McClennen, Erika Bibbee and Emily Denman
Located on the third floor of Christian Help is the women’s Career Closet, filled with heels, purses, designer business suits, scrubs and jewelry.
The room is decorated to simulate a personal walk-in closet, with painted flowers on the wall, string lights and tapestries. The staff wants to provide a welcoming feeling to the approximately six women a day who patronize the service.
Nestled into the 200 Block of Walnut Street, Christian Help Inc, a United Way agency, is a nondenominational, non-profit organization providing help for less fortunate Morgantown residents.
The grant-funded program allows anyone to come in and browse their two large rooms full of work attire and pick out three free outfits a month as long as they are currently working, looking for a job, or are a student. Career Closets solely operates on donations from the community.
“The outpouring of support from people that I know, and people that I don’t know, has been overwhelming and it seems like the program has really gotten off the ground. We’re blowing our old numbers out the door, we’re helping more people, we’re partnering with more businesses than we ever have,” said Alissa Ponzurick, the Career Closets coordinator.
“We’re trying to meet those goals and make it a reality that people see this as a hidden gem in Morgantown, a place to come to feel good about yourself, and just have a little bit of a pat on the back for working, and going to school.”
Someone who has greatly benefited from Career Closets is Kathie Berkshire Stansberry, 60, of Morgantown, West Virginia. Stansberry comes to Career Closets once a month to get more clothes for her job as a cashier at the local Walmart, but there’s something else about Career Closets that keeps Stansberry coming back: the memories of her daughter.
On December 1st 2014 Stansberry’s daughter Sharon Kay Berkshire was killed by Jody Hunt, a local tow company owner and her former fiancé along with 3 other victims. The multiple homicides shook Morgantown. Stansberry remembers coming into Career Closets with her daughter. One time in particular, Stansberry remembers Sharon trying on a two-piece “whisper-soft” business suit that fit her like a glove and made her small petite frame look exquisite.
She explains that her daughter was very into shoes, especially boots, and every time they went into Career Closets her daughter went straight for the shoes and usually found a pair of boots that she loved. Stansberry still finds herself still going over and looking to see the selection of boots the closet has.
Times have not been easy for Stansberry and she explains that Christian Help has always been there to give her a helping hand
“Christian Help made sure my kids and I had clothes, made sure my kids had coats for the winter, shoes, boots, whatever they needed, always. And they gave me my backbone back. They made me feel like I was worthy of having things, not like I should crawl under a rock,” said Stansberry.
Another positive memory Stansberry reflects on is the time she and her daughter found her favorite dress. They had come into Career Closets and Sharon picked out the long colorful flow dress that she thought her mother would like. She remembers thinking the dress reminded her of her times in the ’60’s, and she knew she had to have it, now that long colorful dress provides Stansberry with good memories.
Even without her daughter, Stansberry comes in to the closet and shops once a month and still feels her daughter’s memory as she browses through the racks.
“I can feel her, nudging me like, ‘Mom, look at this,’ or ‘Mom, look at that,’ and it’s like, ‘Okay, baby, I get you. I got you.’”