OSU-Cascades service provides free clothing to students

While the Benny’s Closet in Corvallis, Ore. is currently closed due to COVID-19, OSU-Cascades Student Outreach Coordinator Megan Bolt is working to keep the program open at the Cascades campus.

Luke Reynolds, OSU-Cascades Beat Reporter

As many adults have struggled to find employment over the past year, Benny’s Closet aims to help alleviate some stress by providing professional clothing to Oregon State University students for free.

Benny’s Closet was founded in 2016 by a group of first-year students in the College of Business on the Corvallis campus. It was named after OSU’s mascot Benny Beaver. 

“They saw the need that many students have for low or no-cost business attire, and sought donations for clothing and formed a little microbusiness,” said Kimberly Vierra, the student engagement program manager at OSU-Cascades.

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Since 2016, the program has expanded to the Cascades campus, starting in the fall term of 2019. Vierra played a big part in bringing Benny’s Closet to OSU-Cascades.

“Being a new campus, we don’t have a lot of the same support for our students here that they have in Corvallis. One of the big differences is that because we were doing a soft opening, [Benny’s Closet on the Cascades campus] didn’t charge anything,” Vierra said.

While the Benny’s Closet in Corvallis, Ore. is currently closed due to COVID-19, Vierra and OSU-Cascades Student Outreach Coordinator Megan Bolt are working to keep the program open at the Cascades campus.

“The idea for me through the pandemic was to do a clothing drive. We partnered with the Bend Chamber and we had a virtual clothing drive during spring term. We wore masks, we had gloves, we had all the things tightly sealed up. We went house to house and got all of the donations,” Vierra said.

While Benny’s Closet has received a lot of new or gently used clothing from the drive, it is struggling to give students access to its wares.

“We used to sit out in the dining hall with all the clothes and students would look at everything we had. Now we can’t really do that,” Bolt said.

Because of COVID-19, Bolt has been exploring safer ways to bring Benny’s Closet to students without putting them at risk for infection.

“This year I take all the inventory of everything we have, and I’ve been working on promoting Benny’s Closet on social media. We have weekly outfit features on Fridays, and I also created a Google form where students can request different items that they might want,” Bolt said.

As of the time of this publication, Benny’s Closet has only received 2 to 3 inquiries since COVID-19 began. The link to the Google Form can be found here.

Despite recent troubles to get the word out due to the pandemic, Benny’s Closet has received positive feedback from students.

“They mainly helped me out by giving me some tips on what looked good on me and they let me try on some clothing. This was before COVID of course,” said Devon Crane, a first-year graduate student in the teaching program at OSU-Cascades.

Crane feels Benny’s Closet has been a friendly service that caters well to students.

“I feel like it’s a great resource to have as there are students who don’t have the funds to get a really nice shirt or really good dress attire for interviews. Having a free resource there is really helpful,” Crane said.