Mervyn's opens its Community Closet to men and women enrolled in job-training programs

May 22, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ

Staff Writer

If you noticed Mervyn's' yellow, blue and white tractor trailer parked next to El Centro's Town Square on Tuesday and were curious as to what was going on, they were here giving away free clothing.

Jan O'Laughlin, Mervyn's senior community relations marketing specialist, said the five-year-old program was developed in response to the federal government's welfare reform.

"Since we're in the retail business, it made sense for us to give clothing," she said.

Hence, the Mervyn's Community Closet, as the big rig is called.

The men and women, 36 in all in four groups who are given the clothing, are selected by local agencies that provide job-training services, such as CalWORKs and the Calexico Housing Authority, O'Laughlin said.


"They select the guests ahead of time," she said.

Each group is taken into the trailer and briefed by O'Laughlin on what to expect. Each guest is then teamed with a local Mervyn's employee who act as personal shoppers. Each woman received a three-piece suit consisting of pants, skirt and blazer. They also received a sweater and a white blouse. Men received a blazer, slacks, dress pants, polo shirt and white dress shirt. They all were given accessories such as shoes, socks, hosiery, belts, ties and scarves. The men were taught to tie a knot for the ties.

"This is a good idea and really helpful," said El Centro resident Raymond Propps.

Propps, 36, said the clothing will be useful in his search for a new job. He said he'd been a local automotive mechanic for 20 years until he suffered myocarditis, or congestive heart failure. He was once on the list for a heart transplant.

Propps said he is now attending classes at Imperial Valley College, where he's studied office technology and will next study business management. He is also receiving work training at CalWORKs.

Carla Moore, CalWORKs program manager, said case workers choose those to receive the clothing.

"Those who are job-ready and need the final polish of a wardrobe to go out and land a job," she said.

Of the 36 guests, 26 were selected by CalWORKs, including 16 women and 10 men.

Gilbert Jimenez, 38, of Holtville, said he is pleased with the clothing.

"It is an excellent gift," he said.

The women received clothing from Mervyn's Hillard & Hanson line, while the men received clothing from Haggar.

O'Laughlin said Mervyn's donates 5 percent of its profits to the Community Closet, which amounts to $5 million weekly. To date, Mervyn's has helped 5,000 women and 100 men. Mervyn's is touring 30 cities in Southern California, stopping where invited. Today they will be in San Diego.

>> Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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