The idea that began 18 years ago during a luncheon amongst friends has transformed into one of the best-kept secrets in Slidell.
My Girlfriend’s Closet, a resale boutique on Robert Boulevard in north Slidell, was the brainchild of a half-dozen women who were looking to aid a local nonprofit. They chose East St. Tammany Rainbow Child Care as their beneficiary, and since then, the partnership has produced fantastic results.
Through the sale of donations of gently used women’s clothing and accessories, My Girlfriend’s Closet gives approximately $20,000 a year to Rainbow Child Care, according to Rainbow’s Executive Director Dionne Graham.
Rainbow was established in 1983 as an outreach mission of Aldersgate United Methodist Church and Macedonia Baptist Church. It became a United Way Partner Agency in 1986 and has capacity to provide child care for 92 children ages 1-5.
When the women who started My Girlfriend’s Closet sat down over lunch at a now-closed Semolina’s Restaurant 18 years ago, co-founder Nancy Barthelemy said Rainbow was an easy choice. Little did they know it would become an important source of funding for the facility that provides care for the children of working parents — many facing extreme financial stress.
“This is (a labor of love) because of the children at Rainbow,” Barthelemy said. “It’s typical of all nonprofits. People are hurting. So this helps. Proceeds from our July sale will help them with a summer enrichment field trip. It’s just trying to help. I’ve volunteered all over, but this is my consistent place.”
My Girlfriend’s Closet is staffed by approximately 15 women who volunteer eight to 20 hours a month, Barthelemy said. They solicit donations from many of the area’s civic organizations, as well as the public, and they display them at their small boutique located in donated space at 881 Robert Blvd., behind the Domino’s Pizza just north of the water tower.
What the shop space lacks in size, it atones for in attractiveness. The boutique houses hundreds of pieces of beautiful clothing including party dresses, blouses, casual wear, shoes, purses and more.
“The most expensive things we sell are the gowns, most of them during Mardi Gras, and those are only $30,” Barthelemy said. “But our (other) dresses are (only) $12. There are still price tags on some of them. The shoes are $6. And almost all of our customers are repeats. Most people don’t even know we’re back here.”
That’s not for a lack of effort from The Closet’s dedicated volunteers. Sonja Pace, a local Real Estate agent has carved time from her busy schedule to volunteer at the boutique for more than 10 years.
“It’s just for the children,” she said. “They’re so important to the community. They’re going to be our leaders, our elected officials. They’re the people that we need to promote and help out.”
Rainbow is one of the highest-rated child care centers in the area by the state, and all teachers have received child development associate certificates. The staff attends professional development classes throughout the year to keep up with the latest trends in early childhood development.
“We like to think this is where quality meets affordability,” Graham said. “Our largest revenue stream is parent-paid tuition, but the volunteers (at My Girlfriend’s Closet) lead the charge. I work behind the scenes to help make sure they have what they need, but really, all the work at Closet comes from them. And believe me, it’s a tremendous amount of work. They clean, steam, hang and merchandise all the clothes. It doesn’t feel like a resale place. It really feels like a boutique.”
And Graham knows that Rainbow’s mission would be much harder to meet without the help of those volunteers.
“They’re vital,” she said. “Some of the money is used for operation and programming. Some of it is for enrichment. But it definitely assists with our needs.”
To buy or donate
My Girlfriend’s Closet is open the first Thursday of each month from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and the first Friday and Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The boutique will hold hours during the second week of July due to the Independence Day holiday falling on a Friday.
- Donations of gently used women’s wear (no undergarments) are welcome from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the final Thursday of each month at the boutique at 881 Robert Blvd.
- For more information on donating to or volunteering time at My Girlfriend’s Closet, visit www.rainbowccc.org or call (985) 646-1603.