A free clothing closet on the Rockville Campus opened its doors in late October and held its grand opening in early November. SPIFFY Clothing Closet is the brainchild of Montgomery College students Debby Safra and Campbell Walsh, with inspiration and help from Professor Gregory Sember, who teaches in the History and Political Science Department. The closet is open to all enrolled MC students.
Many in the Gen Z and Millennial generations may not be familiar with the term, but spiffy was used to describe something or someone who was stylish, dressed up, or attractive.
Located in Room 107 of the Computer Science Building, the space has been repainted and revamped by Sember and the students, with support from the Rockville Campus Office of Student Life. It has the cozy, warm, and welcoming feel of a clothing store but with high-quality items at no cost for students.
Students can show up to the SPIFFY clothing closet and present their MC identification card. To ensure access for all, Walsh and Safra instituted a limit on the number of items a student can take per semester, but they can review the policy on an as-needed basis.
“We want to make sure everyone has what they need to succeed professionally and in the classroom. Part of that is being able to dress spiffy,” Walsh said.
The SPIFFY Back Story
Last spring semester, Sember asked his students, which included Safra, what they could do in terms of civic engagement to help others. After a serendipitous meeting with a student parent on campus, Safra realized there was no clothing closet on the Rockville Campus; the mother she had just talked to had trekked to the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus with a baby in tow to find professional clothes for an upcoming job interview.
“There was a time when I went into poverty,” Safra said. “I don’t have a kid, but my family and I understand the struggles… and the impact that even small amounts of assistance can have on people’s self-esteem."
Safra’s friend and SPIFFY co-founder Campbell Walsh also had personal experience with someone in need of clothing. Walsh’s friend needed appropriate clothing to report for jury duty and even thrift stores were no longer economically accessible.
“SPIFFY not only increases access to resources, it also allows creative expression in a way that many people who are at risk or facing homelessness are not always able to achieve. With the SPIFFY clothing closet, they can feel confident within themselves and enjoy their time at MC knowing there are people here who care about them and want to see them succeed,” Walsh said. “College is about increasing access to resources and removing barriers.”
Walsh, Safra, and Sember said SPIFFY would not have been possible without the support of Libby McClayton, service learning coordinator, and Lisa Hackley, director of Student Life, Rockville. They are also partnering with them and with Dr. Eric Benjamin, Rockville Campus provost, for a winter clothing drive this month.