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Latina moms open children's community closet in Charlotte: 'It was a dream'

Kayla Young
WFAE/La Noticia
Iggy Austin (left), Jazzmin Turcios, Ana Maria Garcia and Bernadette Olmstead teamed up with a group of mothers to launch a community closet at Charlotte Bilingual Preschool.

Charlotte Bilingual Preschool has launched a community closet with free clothing and shoes for children up to age 8. The shop was launched recently by a group of preschool mothers who wanted to help families share resources.

Last year, the space now dedicated to The Children’s Closet at Charlotte Bilingual Preschool looked very different.

“It was where everything broken, unneeded and unwanted ended — including mice,” said Family Programs Director Iggy Austin. “So [we] took ownership of the project with the help of our community, our very own volunteers.”

She says a group of 10 Latina mothers, who met through the school’s early childhood development workshop, cleared four truckloads of trash from the room.

“And then the dream started. Because it was a dream,” Austin said.

Jazzmin Turcios is one of the mothers who volunteered time to renovate the space. She says the initiative has been a shared labor of love.

“This has come from the hearts of all of us. Each woman gave something. Another would give and then another. Then one would come out one day and another the next,” Turcios said.

The result is a space where mothers enjoy spending time.

“We want the moms to feel comfortable when they come here. We have a children’s play area, so they can leave them there while they look at clothes,” she said. “What we want is to give them love.”

Family educator and volunteer Bernadette Olmstead says clothing in the shop has been carefully selected. They want to offer good quality clothes so that families and kids feel proud.

Seeing the shop ready for customers makes Olmstead feel proud, too.

“This is just a dream that came true, to be honest,” Olmstead said. “I never expected I could find people that believed in the dream and that helping is the way that we grow personally. It gives you a lot of meaning in your life.”

The closet opens on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 6300 Highland Ave. They accept donations of gently used clothing, free of rips or stains, as well as items like high chairs and diapers.

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Kayla Young is a Report for America corps member covering issues involving race, equity, and immigration for WFAE and La Noticia, an independent Spanish-language news organization based in Charlotte. Major support for WFAE's Race & Equity Team comes from Novant Health and Wells Fargo.