Air date: April 10, 2014
For Donna Liccardello, it began with one little boy on a cold winter day. Donna: I had asked him, “honey where is your coat?” and he said he was wearing it and in actuality it was just a zip up hoodie. From there, she began collecting coats for the poor. Then hats. Scarves. Pants. She stored them in her Macomb home until it overflowed. Finally, she moved into a vacant elementary school, filled ten classrooms, and opened The Closet. Donna: We had everywhere from maternity to newborns, preemies, all the way up to 18+ in kids and then our adults room started from petite smalls all the way up to 5 triple X. Mitch: How many people would come through on an average day? Donna: In the beginning in about 2009 we started with about maybe 15 to 20 um and when the closet was at its best in 2012 we had about 85 clients a day. Mitch: And how do you know that they were truly needy? Donna: We took it on faith. You know it takes a lot to come into a closet sometimes. We never wanted people to feel uncomfortable so we treated it like we would like a mall. Donna washed every piece of clothing herself. Mitch: That is a lot of laundry in your house. Donna: Yeah (laughing) Mitch: You have so you have that sound of the machine going all the time of year. Donna: All the time Unfortunately, in 2012, a school superintendent evicted Donna’s Closet, claiming she lacked insurance. The operation moved back into her home, until just recently, when Mt. Clemens High school offered space. Donna and volunteers put in countless hours of organizing and washing, but when you point out that she gets no pay… Donna: But in actuality it does pay me. You know you can rest a little easier at night knowing that you might have had a small part in helping someone out make their life a little bit easier. From one coat to the world’s biggest closet, Donna Liccardello is proving there is no size too small or too big for the heart of Detroit.