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Meet Caryn Shoemaker of Clothes Cabin in Chandler

Today we’d like to introduce you to Caryn Shoemaker.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
In 2001, a small group of friends decided to collect socks to package and deliver to agencies that serve the poor. In 8 years, more than 160,000 pairs of socks were donated to clothing banks, shelters, and school nurses. In 2008, Chandler’s only clothing bank closed, so the women of One Small Step opened a clothing bank and served 550 clients in the first year. Now, almost 2,000 families a year get help with free clothing and household linens at Clothes Cabin in Chandler.

Clothes Cabin also provides new steel-toed work boots to men who need them to secure a job. Homeless clients find special services at Clothes Cabin, as they can have their clothes laundered weekly, and access both storage lockers and mail boxes. Surplus clothing and linens are passed to a dozen other agencies (locally and in Mexico) that serve the poor, insuring that no donation goes unused. More than 100,000 articles of clothing are processed during a year by more than 60 volunteers.

Friends Resale Boutique, next door to Clothes Cabin, is also operated by One Small Step, to provide funds for purchasing needed items like children’s clothing and shoes. Its variety of unique products (designer purses, home decor, games and gifts) appeals to thrift shoppers who love the thrill of the hunt.

Has it been a smooth road?
The growing need for assistance has pushed us into larger quarters twice before and we are looking for ways to gain even more space for processing, storage and client service.

The demand for children’s clothes and shoes has ALWAYS been higher than we can supply. More than half of our client list are children, and they cannot wear last year’s jacket, last year’s jeans, last year’s shoes. They need help every season to avoid the embarrassment of worn out and ill-fitted clothes and shoes, but the acceptable children’s clothing and shoes that are donated cannot keep up with the demand. In addition to needing children’s clothes, we struggle to find sufficient athletic and casual shoes, household linens (sheets, towels, blankets), and hygiene products for our clients.

Finally, a small or new charity finds it difficult to compete with the larger charities for operating funds. The work we do requires a publicly-accessible building, and the necessary expenses of maintaining a facility is borne primarily by individuals who take advantage of the Arizona Tax Credit for Qualified Charitable Organizations. We are grateful for their help in meeting the challenge of funding such an operation.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Clothes Cabin – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Clothes Cabin started out providing only clothing and shoes, so that is what we’re best known for, but what we’re proud of is that we’ve grown our services to meet needs that our clients told us about. We provide solutions that no other organization is offering. For example, a client told us he was recently laid off and didn’t mind working day labor, but couldn’t take any jobs in construction or warehousing without steel-toed boots, which he couldn’t afford to buy. We decided to purchase a small stock of new work boots, and the Back-to-Work program was born. For $30, we buy $60 boots and put a man back to work so he can provide for his family. Approximately 75 men have gone back to work as a result of that program. Then a man asked for sheets because his teenage daughters visit him on weekends and only one daughter had sheets on her bed. We began soliciting donations of used sheets, towels, and blankets which have helped many of our clients, even though the demand is greater than the supply. One homeless client who got new t-shirts plucked at his dirty shirt and said, “Now I can throw this stinking thing away,” and we realized that we could help our homeless clients become better stewards of their resources by offering free laundry service. Clothes Cabin washes about 35-40 loads a month to give our homeless clients dignity and better hygiene. Other homeless services include small storage lockers and mailbox slots, services not available elsewhere to them.

Another factor that sets us apart is our great attention to detail. We want to show the utmost respect and care for our clients, so every article of clothing is examined carefully and if it has a tear or a stain, it won’t go into the showroom. The clients who come for help tell us how good they feel about shopping in a store that feels like a boutique. It smells good, looks good, and feels good. Every volunteer takes pride in his or her work to give the clients all we can deliver.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Best: Our donors and our clients represent such a diverse population, it is a delight to work with both. We can do so much good for the community by helping those who are in need, whether temporary or long-term, and the effects are obvious immediately. Also, we see that the charitable organizations in this area are highly cooperative, sharing resources and offering referrals that maximize the benefits of partnering and minimize the duplication of effort.

Least: Sometimes there is a lack of respect for the people we serve, a judgment that they work less, try less, and somehow deserve less. We’d love to see more appreciation for the difficult circumstances our clients are in.


  • All of our services are free.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Clothes Cabin

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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