While most people hide their clutter in the basement, one woman in Montcalm County is housing a stash of sporting goods and fancy dresses.
Shelly Perkins has been collecting items to give away to athletes and students in need for years.
“One day, I thought, let’s kind of do it like a ‘Play it Again Sprts’, but no money crosses anybody’s hands,” explained Perkins. “The sporting equipment is theirs to keep, the dresses I just try to keep and just loan out.”
The mother of six started the “community closet” about 5 years ago, after she realized she’d been left with a small collection from her daughter’s high school sports career.
“She was very good at what she did and so we started building up equipment,” Perkins told FOX 17 News. “It’s hard to sell at yard sales, it’s hard to get rid of and it’s too good to just throw out.”
Instead, Perkins began to give the items away to area athletes. Often, families would have pieces to donate back to Perkins and the pile of equipment grew.
“It keeps getting bigger every year. I have wrestling equipment, shoes, pads, head gear… football helmets, football pads, soccer stuff…I like helping the community, I like helping kids.”
Longtime friend Wilma Hall remembers how the operation outgrew the back of Perkin’s van and quickly over took her basement.
“The back of her van was just loaded, to the hilt with all kids of sporting equipment. Now it’s just snowballed,” said Hall. “It doesn’t matter what time of the year. She’s always got something that somebody’s needing equipment for.”
Perkins ‘Borrow a Dress’ program was started a couple of years later. She now has about 200 dresses that she loans out to high school girls that can’t afford a dress for the next big dance.
“It’s nice to see that smile on their face when that dress fits just perfect,” said Perkins. “Sometimes I get them back and sometimes I don’t.”
Perkins hopes the community closet means more kids can play, or go to the dance, instead of having to sit out on the sidelines.
“Your next olympian may come out of one of these kids that couldn’t afford to play,” she said. “You just help out your neighbor and you just hope that what you put out there is going to come back to you.”
Perkins is hoping to get a storefront to move her collection somewhere public. She’s already thought of the name “50/50 Closet” since it will be “half sports equipment, half dresses”.
Perkins has created a Facebook page for both projects.
For more information on “Everybody Plays Project”, click here.
For more information on the B.A.D (Borrow a Dress) Project, click here.