Sparky’s Closet provides free clothing for students

Students looking for warm clothing this winter or business attire for job interviews can stop by Sparky’s Closet on the east side of campus to select clothing items for free.

Sparky’s Closet is run in coordination with the UIC Pop-Up Pantry, which provides food to registered UIC students who are experiencing food insecurity. During the pantry’s hours of operation — 1-4 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays during the spring semester — students can also select items from a clothing rack near the exit of the pantry, which is located on the second floor of the Student Center East Tower, across from the Montgomery Ward Lounge.

The idea for Sparky’s Closet came about during Chicago’s polar vortex in 2019, said Ruby Vega Lepe, assistant director of the UIC student centers.

“The cold was brutal, and I realized a lot of students did not have warm enough clothing,” Lepe said.

UIC student centers collect lost items on campus and hold them for one month. Previously, items were donated to Goodwill stores when an owner was not located, but Lepe wanted to find a way to benefit UIC students directly. She reached out to Carol Petersen, director of the UIC Wellness Center, which operates the Pop-Up Pantry, to join forces and help UIC students.

“Instead of donating the items to be resold, we washed the clothing and provided it to our students in need,” Lepe said.

Last year, Sparky’s Closet provided UIC students with 30 coats and sweaters, 19 hats, and many scarves and pairs of gloves, Lepe said.

Sparky’s Closet has recently started accepting donations, which can be dropped off in Room 118, Student Center East, or Room 242, Student Center West, during hours of operation.

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