Manor church’s free clothing store expands hours, options to meet community need

Grandparents trying to clothe their grandchildren.

A woman looking for clothes to bring with her to rehab.

A nursing student in search of affordable scrubs for school.

Refuge Boutique, a free clothing store run by Refuge Church in Manor, has helped people in each of these scenarios. In the spring, it expanded its hours of operation and clothing selection.

The boutique is housed in a former school building across the street from the church. It was started by a group of congregants in 2017, said Kim Hidalgo, the church’s business manager.

Every week, a handful of volunteers sort through about 10 bags of clothing donated to the boutique, said coordinator Katie Morgan.

They weed out any torn or stained items and re-donate outdated pieces. Everything else goes on the racks for shoppers to browse.

“It’s been just wonderful to see people coming and getting the things that they need,” said Hidalgo, of Hempfield.

No proof of need is required, said Morgan, of Herminie, and shoppers are welcome to take as many items as they want.

The boutique is open every Wednesday evening and in the morning on the second Tuesday and fourth Saturday of each month. One room of the former school building features men and children’s clothes. Another displays women’s clothing for a variety of ages.

Angie Sirnic has been a regular shopper for about a month, stopping once a week to donate a few items and track down clothes for her patients.

Sirnic, of Jeannette, works at a drug rehabilitation center.

“A lot of the people that come (to the center) don’t really have much more than the clothes on their back,” she said.

After meeting with a patient, Sirnic goes to the boutique’s next opening and picks out items that match their size and preferences. She often grabs a few things for her five children and, sometimes, herself.

“Me and my kids were always thrifters,” she said.

But with rising prices even at thrift stores, the boutique is a better deal for Sirnic.

“I really, honestly like it there so much,” she said. “Everyone there is so nice. You find a lot of nice clothing there.”

The boutique may see anywhere from 10 to 30 people during its operating hours. Wednesdays draw the largest crowds with about five to 10 families per night, Morgan said.

“(We’re) able to meet some real needs in some real ways,” she said. “Biblically we’re called to care for our neighbors, and this is just such a cool way to do it. I’ve really loved it.”

A community member once donated a box of plain T-shirts. To Morgan’s surprise, a woman came in seeking plain shirts for work.

“Sometimes, the donations that come in might seem very random,” Morgan said. “I’m learning to just trust that we’ll be able to meet that need somehow. This (item) will meet a need at some point.”

And when someone comes in seeking a specific item the boutique does not have, volunteers almost always receive it days later, she said.

“The Lord just provides,” she said. “We have a need and we always get it met in one way or another.”

The boutique is working to bring its mission directly to community members, Morgan said. At Manor Community Day in September, the boutique hosted a “Stitch Fix-style” giveaway, she said, donating about 130 bags of pre-packed clothing to community members who stopped by its table.

Another grab-bag giveaway will be held from 4 to 9 p.m. on Nov. 2 during Irwin’s Ladies Night, hosted by the Irwin Business and Professional Association. The boutique will be set up at The Green Berry, a juicery on Main Street owned by a Refuge Church member.

Morgan believes growth is on the horizon for the boutique.

“Our donations have really picked up a ton,” she said. “I think God’s getting us ready for something big.”

Quincey Reese is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Quincey by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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