Off the rack
Danville’s Lois Bratton leads the Northview Christian Church Community Clothes Closet ministry
By Stephanie Dolan
A Danville church ministry provides clothes for those in need, the elderly, school children and people headed back to work. The people who serve in and donate toward the Northview Christian Church Community Clothes Closet improve the lives of people in Hendricks County and beyond.
The church’s largest outreach ministry welcomes guests at least twice a month and is led by Danville resident and church member Lois Bratton.
“We have a team of about 10 who really helps get the word out,” Bratton said. “We want things to be nice that we’re giving in the name of Jesus.”
After Bratton and her husband Eddie retired from a full-time gig that spanned nearly 50 years, they made a move from Springfield, Ill., to Danville at the request of their son who was formerly on staff at Northview. He has since left for another ministry opportunity. But the Brattons have been at Northview since 2011, and since they came to Hendricks County have worked with the clothes closet. Lois has led the ministry for about six years.
The couple met at Cincinnati Bible College and celebrated their 60th anniversary Aug. 26. Since they tied the knot in 1960, they’ve had four children and have four grandchildren.
“Eddie traveled in a quartet in college. He had a million dollar smile,” Lois said reminiscing. “I just knew he was the one.”
The Brattons never considered any church where they served to be a job.
“It was always our family ministry,” she said. “We love people and wanted to serve and teach them about Jesus.”
Even in retirement, they were immediately ready to roll up their sleeves and help when they joined Northview. At first they served in a now discontinued homeless ministry and the clothes closet.
“I grew up in a family of 10, and times were pretty difficult, so I wanted to have nice clothes for the people who came in,” said Lois. “We lived on a farm, but we didn’t always have everything. We had food and shelter, and we had a wealthy cousin who gave us hand-me-downs. I was next to the oldest, so I helped care for the younger ones.”
That caring spirit helps her lead the ministry volunteers and those who walk through the door.
Volunteer Dana Beaman works with Bratton and might get more out of helping others than they get from her when they step into the clothes closet on Thursdays and Saturdays.
“When I retired I knew I wanted to do volunteer work,” Beaman said. “I got plugged into a few things, and they fulfilled somewhat of what I wanted, but it wasn’t satisfying to me. About four years ago one of our church members suggested I try the closet. I went to the closet, and it was fun. I’ve met more people who are church members through the volunteer work. It’s a gratifying, humbling experience.”
Some of the gratification comes from the “thank yous” that ring throughout the building from shoppers to volunteers.
“The people who are really, really in need are thankful within 10 feet of the door, and they’re thanking you as they go out the door,” she said. “We hear it from 99% of the people who come in. As they leave we are being thanked.”
Beaman appreciates Bratton humbly leading the ministry.
“The community is thankful for it, and Lois is a sweetheart to work with and for,” Beaman said.
Bratton has taken her nurturing instinct and uses it for good at Northview and beyond.
“We have really expanded things a lot,” she said. “It’s not just people from Hendricks County coming in.”
Sheltering Wings guests have a private time to shop, and seniors from Lakeview Place Senior Apartments with walkers and wheelchairs come during a time set aside for them. Donations are also shared with Eskenazi Hospital because patients often have had their clothes cut off of them.
“We also work with the local work release program, and those case workers will call us,” she said.
Since the pandemic, volunteers have collected sizes and ages of those on work release so they can provide new shoes, socks, underwear, jeans and shirts without them having to visit the building, Bratton said.
The Community Clothes Closet is also open by appointment, which often happens with work release shoppers. But it’s about more than the clothes.
“We provide them with a Bible and a study guide, too,” she said.
The ministry also provided new shoes, socks and underwear to children. They adapted in the midst of the pandemic, including a drive-thru back-to-school event in July where Northview partnered with Danville United Methodist Church to serve 169 kids.
Because the closet gets so many donations, especially with people cleaning out their closets during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ministry also donates clothes to other organizations and charities.
Men’s business clothing goes to Success Wear at St. Vincent Health, an Indianapolis ministry for men getting back into the workforce. Formal dresses go to Clayton Christian Church for their spring formal giveaway. Items that go to Cummins Behavioral Health, Family Promise and Active Grace help homeless families and homeless vets.
Volunteer Annie Cloncs works with the Brattons. She got introduced to the Northview ministry by a friend in her philanthropic sorority Delta Theta Tau who knew she lived near the church.
“The people who come are so appreciative that they don’t have to buy clothes,” Cloncs said. “Especially in today’s situation, you tend to try to take care of shelter and food and other things first, and the fact that we provide this service at no charge is very much appreciated by all the people I’ve dealt with, especially the clothes for children. We have so many people who are coming now for clothes for their families. It’s just a blessing for us to be able to provide that support.”
Northview Christian Church Community Clothes Closet
Address: 623 Indiana 39, Danville. The closet is located behind the church in a gray building.
Hours: 9-11 a.m. the first Saturday and 5-7 p.m. the third Thursday each month or by appointment by calling (317) 745-5990.
Getting to know Lois Bratton
Family: Husband, Eddie; four children, Angie, Alan, Amy and Andy and four grandchildren
What is your other favorite Hendricks County charity? Sheltering Wings
Do you have a favorite movie? “Gone with the Wind”
Who or what inspires you? My clothes closet team. We work well together and keep each other motivated.
What do you do with your downtime? I like to go to consignment shops and antique shops.