CLEVELAND — When you walk into Pearl’s Closet in Cleveland, you’re meant to feel like you’re at home.
“This is what I do, this is what I love,” said Brittney Smith.
She’s the founder of the nonprofit organization PEARLS, which stands for “Positively Empowering And Restoring Ladies Self-esteem.”
Smith has dedicated her life to giving back.
“I’ve been a community servant since I was 5 years old, this is heart work for me,” Smith said. “I love people, I love being able to make people happy. It breaks my heart to see people suffering in any type of way.”
That's why Pearl’s Closet is a completely free store.
You may have seen those community shops with free goods for the taking pop up often these days.
At Pearl’s, the focus is on young women, tweens and teens.
“The items we have are very trendy, nice — we only put out clothes that we ourselves would wear,” Smith explained.
Alongside the racks of clothing, you’ll find shoes, jewelry, accessories, purses, and all sorts of hygiene products.
It offers a customized boutique experience at no cost, and you can even make a private shopping appointment to pick out your free items.
Eighth-grader Arielle Pickett loves spending her time volunteering at the shop.
“We basically wanted it to feel comfortable and feel like a regular store, so they don’t have to feel like they’re being embarrassed by having to shop for used clothes,” Arielle said.
She said she gets just as much out of it as she gives.
“It’s going to build me into a better person when I get older by helping the people in my community, girls around my age, who I can see are in need,” Arielle added.
We know the need in Cleveland is great.
Data has shown it has the highest poverty rate among large cities in the country.
We focus on food and essentials a lot but having something that makes you feel like you can be essential, too.
“We want people to have what they need, and we want girls and women to feel empowered,” Smith said.
“We want them, as soon as they step in here, feel like this is their home, that we’re all family — that we’re all connected and that we have their back essentially.”
The free boutique started off as women-only, but they’ve had such an incredible response, they are expanding out to offer men and boy’s clothing some time this spring.
This story was first reported by Homa Bash at WEWS in Cleveland.