Cougar Closet faces temporary closure due to ‘unfortunate circumstances’
On Nov. 3, the Cougar Closet, which provided free materials for those facing clothing insecurity, announced on social media its sudden closure due to “unfortunate circumstances.”
Some factors that contributed to the unforeseen closure include improper funding, inappropriate space, lack of resources and possibly internal conflicts among executive board members, according to some organization volunteers.
“I believe they were having issues filling the executive board and not enough members contributing to the organization as they should have been, in the way that they committed to,” said junior pre-nursing major Kennedi King-Jones. “It had nothing to do with clothes.”
However, the general consensus behind the closure is that it was primarily caused by damage and general wear-and-tear to the organization’s equipment. Racks were damaged and, with some in need of replacement, Cougar Closet has struggled to secure the necessary funding to repair them.
Last year, Cougar Closet was forced to move locations from the Welcome Center next to McAlister’s to the Student Services Center next to Cougar Village and the A.D. Bruce Religion Center. This move was the beginning of the end of the used clothing racks.
“Transporting the racks with their clothes on them did real damage and, with the small spaces that we were given to keep our racks and our clothing in, it was just hard to try to keep it all in the room,” said sophomore psychology major Dy’Mond Reyon Spencer, a volunteer with Cougar Closet.
Over 400 articles of clothing remain in storage within the Student Service Building. According to management information systems senior and Cougar Closet President, Ojonobi Emina, members are currently exploring options to donate the remaining inventory.
Emina represents the organization, oversees the Executive board and coordinates organization events. She did not want to comment on whether the executive board had conflicts but did confirm King-Jones’s statement that there was a lack of help from within.
“Some of our board members have realized that they cannot take up the responsibility for what they have signed up for,” Emina said. “However, some of our board members are also graduating this December.”
Emina stressed the main issues her organization is facing are obtaining funding, getting new racks and finding a fixed location that is suitable for their operation.
Moving from the Welcome Center near McAlister’s only created more difficulties for the Cougar Closet. Before they had a fixed location and held events outside of the Welcome Center if need be. Operating out of a storage closet and mobilizing them has disrupted performance, she said.
“It really harms the smaller operation of running the closet,” Emina said. “It’s very difficult to run the Closet out of the storage unit because the unit is stacked all the way to the brim.”
Volunteers don’t want to have students visiting the closet to dig from bins or sort through clothes on the floor, according to Spencer.
“We want to make sure they have a good stance on what they’re looking at and make it look professional,” Spencer said. “We want to make sure that it’s easy for them to look through and to choose.”
The Cougar Closet has since met with the Center for Student Advocacy and Community about obtaining new racks in the hope of addressing the problem soon. CSAC has offered to help provide racks but the timeline is still uncertain.
“Despite the hardships, we’re facing right now. We will be able to bounce back bigger and better next semester and hopefully into the next school year, “ Emina said. “We will be able to operate smoothly either in a new location or with our current location. But, things will get better. It’s just really hard times right now.”