The Daily Wildcat recently spoke with Grace Jacobson, a University of Arizona sophomore and student director of Campus Closet for the 2020-21 academic year to catch up with the organization’s activities during last fall and spring.
Daily Wildcat: How would you best describe Campus Closet?
Grace Jacobson: We are an ASUA nonprofit service organization that collects and then distributes — free of charge — gently used or new business clothing, professional clothing, or even casual clothing. We are students to the UA community. This includes UA members such as students, faculty members, staff members, etc.
These people then go on to use the clothing for professional events, job interviews, getting a job, really any professional setting. Now that we provide casual wear, they also just use it for daily use, daily wear.
We feel it’s really relevant to provide students and faculty and staff members specifically with business clothing and professional clothing because it’s a very apparent issue in our society that applicants [need to] possess all of the necessary capabilities in order to succeed at a job, but if they do not possess the resources to be able to appear professionally they will never be able to get the job in the first place.
DW: In terms of this year, what sorts of projects and other things has Campus Closet been working on?
GJ: This is the first year that we were actually able to have any events [due to COVID-19 last year]. They weren’t anything that crazy because it’s basically our second year operating.
But this year we were able to host 11 clothing distributions. We roughly helped around 300 students. For 47 of them, we actually provided professional headshots … .
Besides distributions, the two other events that we did this year were I worked with Kendra Scott over the winter, so I actually was able to coordinate a fundraiser with the Kendra Scott Tucson location and the Scottsdale location which was awesome, and then also [the other] event was that a student group actually did a fundraiser for us for their group project and they raised around $300 … .
We hold volunteer hours that are open to everyone and we’ve held specialized volunteer hours where it’s closed off to just an organization, [like the Rotary Club], that wants to sign up with us.
DW: What do the distribution events normally look like and how have they changed this year especially?
GJ: Basically what to expect when you come into the closet is: we have a check-in station, which is just where we verify that you are from the UA and you just show us your CatCard, we let you in and then [it's] pretty easy distributions.
Everything is set up based on genders. There’s a male section and a female section and an accessory table that has bags, scarves, ties — the works. We also have two fitting rooms as well.
Usually, two volunteers that are within the closet go around and help people … . Towards the last 30 minutes when it’s all died down, the volunteers and I, and some of the users that come regularly, all put on little fashion shows and try on everything and take cool Instagram pictures. It’s a really good environment. We’re trying to make everyone feel comfortable and welcomed.
It’s drastically changed over time. This year we began with I think five clothing racks and now we’re at ten or eleven, which is insane. We also had no shoe rack; we were just laying out the shoes on the tables and now we have four shoe racks.
We’ve always had a fitting room, but now we have two. It’s growing so much.
I remember at the beginning we had a very basic accessory table, and now we carry jewelry, swim, bras [and] underwear … . I feel like every time they come we make it more and more comfortable. It just gets better and better every time.
DW: Where is the Campus Closet located?
GJ: We are located on the first floor of the Student Union [Memorial Center] called the Sonora Ballroom. It’s right across from the CatCard office. It is also the same space as the Campus Pantry.
DW: It sounds like inventory has really spiked, have you also seen an increase in demand as well?
GJ: Demand is a tricky thing when it comes to the closet because it’s not as consumable as, let’s say, food, whereas the pantry helps nearly a 1,000 students a week … . [Distribution-wise] we average out to about 30 students or UA members almost every time and it’s remained consistent throughout the distributions.
Demand has not increased in that sense, but it has increased in a different way in the sense that more people are starting to know about us … so when they see that we are open during volunteer hours, not distribution hours, they know to come to us for that specific item [they need].
DW: What have been some of the challenges this year for Campus Closet?
GJ: I do expect next year that there will be an increased demand just because more students will be back on campus. They’ll actually need more clothing now because everything will start to be back in person … . It’s also affected us in the way that we were not able to have a clothing drive this year whatsoever.
Granted, we really did not need it because we just have a lot of inventory right now, but last year we were able to perform a two-week clothing drive before everything got shut down, and that collected over 400 items as I remember.
We were still able to get steady donations throughout the year because, just word of mouth, people kept hearing about us and we do have permanent donation boxes located in certain places.
You can find out much more information about Campus Closet at linktr.ee/campuscloset. Next year, Hannah Stewart will take over as student director for Campus Closet.
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