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Philanthropy A to Z

K – Katelynn’s Closet

Text by Brenna Collins

“When you look good, you feel good.” Katelynn’s Closet’s tagline holds true for the children they help clothe across Cape Cod. Back in 2009, a friend of Susan Johnson and Beth Davis was fostering a 4-year-old girl named Infiniti. She did not have any clothing, and the women reached out to their close friend Ann Bearse to see if she could donate anything. United with a mission, Johnson, Davis, and Bearse founded Katelynn’s Closet to help provide children, like Infiniti, with clothing, footwear, and other basics to foster self-esteem.

“Our friend called around and asked if I had any clothes that were around Infiniti’s size, and of course, I did, as so many of us have clothing our kids have outgrown. I was also fostering children at the time, and still do. That’s how Katelynn’s Closet originated. We saw the need. Originally, we thought we would start just for foster children, but we found the need here to be extreme, so we shifted to helping all of the needy children on the Cape,” co-founder Ann Bearse says. The trio has been working on this mission ever since, donating over 1,000 bundles of clothing to date.

The name honors Bearse’s daughter, Katelynn. “Katelynn was my daughter who passed away at 9 and-a-half years old. She loved fashion, and when she looked good, she felt good; so, that’s our tagline. We have the infinity symbol in our logo because of the foster child, Infiniti, who started it all,” Bearse shares.

Based in South Yarmouth, Katelynn’s Closet partners with social service agents who assess children’s needs. The agent places an order, picks it up, and delivers it to the family while keeping the child anonymous to the nonprofit. The organization offers volunteer opportunities to kids, classes, and groups. The kids volunteering would never know that the clothes may be going to someone in their own classroom. 

“For sizes, we pick up where the baby center stops. We clothe children starting at size 4T and go up to size 18. We also do a ‘timeless teen bag’ with sweatshirts, sweatpants, and trendy clothing. We shop for whatever we don’t get donated. If the child is beyond our size selection, we provide an Old Navy gift card and the social service agent takes the child shopping,” Bearse relays.

Like so many nonprofits, the pandemic left an impact on Katelynn’s Closet. Things shut down just two weeks before their biggest fundraiser, which they are still in the process of rescheduling. Today, the group is figuring out how to best help kids navigate this new normal. After a slow August, typically their busiest month, they are anticipating a new influx of need. “If people aren’t in school, how can we connect them with our service? As times are changing, we have to be as open minded as possible to help these kids. We’re lucky that social workers are back to work, even if the kids aren’t in school full-time,” shares Bearse.

With demand higher than ever, Katelynn’s Closet is fully functioning and needs the community’s support. The organization has clothing donation bins outside of their South Yarmouth location and are always accepting monetary donations. For safety, all clothing is quarantined for three days before being sorted. 

“The need is outrageously high here for a small community. We want these kids to feel valued by their community. We want them to feel good about themselves because that changes everything for them going forward,” Bearse reflects.

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