PUNXSUTAWNEY — A new clothing store opened in Punxsutawney this month offers clothes free to those who need them.

Punxsutawney resident Shelley Rowan opened The “Wearhouse” on Dec. 12 to offer clothing and household items to families in need.

Rowan was previously associated with God’s Closet and Free Clothing Days at the Punxsutawney First Church of God. She had been collecting and distributing free clothing under this name for 15 years. She helped more than 1,000 people in 2017.

She had only planned to host a one-time event when she started. After getting many messages asking when the next clothing event would be, she decided to start holding two clothing days a year, in the spring and fall.

She had to find a new location on short notice. Rowan thinks of this as a blessing in disguise, because she has always dreamed of owning her own business like this.

“I always wanted a store. That was my goal at some point to have a store where everything is free. Everything is free for those in need, that’s what I always say. It was almost a blessing that I had to leave,” Rowan said. “And I knew it was the right fit whenever in three days it was here.”

The “Wearhouse” is located behind Lily’s Restaurant and Bakery at 535 Mulberry Alley. Lily Cameron owns the building, and donated the use of it to Rowan rent free. There is no bathroom or heat, and the store is on the second floor, but Rowan is grateful for it all the same.

Cameron allowed Rowan to do whatever she needed to turn the space into a small clothing store. Steve Wachob helped by building all the shelving and doing necessary handyman work for Rowan. Today she has clothing racks and shelving to display all the clothing and housewares she has.

“He’s amazing, I can just say, ‘Okay, I want this,’ or ‘I have this problem,’ and he’ll just come up with it,” Rowan said.

Rowan is a substitute teacher, so there are no definite hours for the store yet. She has help from volunteers to keep the store open as much as possible, and is willing to work with a family if there is an emergency. She tries to be open Thursday to Saturday most weeks, but will post hours to her Facebook page, The “Wearhouse,” when they are definite.

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She also has a group page on Facebook where she is often messaged about dropping off clothes for donation to the store. She has a constant flow of clothes being donated to her cause.

“My mom was a head start teacher for years. I’m a substitute teacher and I could just see kids in the community who really needed,” Rowan said. “My grandparents, my mom’s parents, they were always doing stuff like this and helping people. So I just kind of learned from them. They were amazing. They did anything.”

Rowan believes watching her grandparents when she was growing up really impacted her.

She touches all the clothing that is donated to her store. She puts a lot of thought into whether she needs certain items, or whether she could pass them along to other, similar organizations. When she has an abundance of certain items, she donates to Jennie Mart in Rossiter or to an organization in Pittsburgh that distributes clothes to the homeless. None of her items go to waste.

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