Woman opens The Closet, provides clothes for all sizes in Detroit area

Donna Liccardello says idea started with boy on cold winter day wearing only zip-up hoodie

DETROIT - For Donna Liccardello, it began with one little boy on a cold winter day.

"I had asked him like, 'Honey, where is your coat?' and he said he was wearing it, and in actuality it was just a zip-up hoodie," said Liccardello.

From there Liccardello began collecting coats for the poor, then hats, scarves and pants. She stored them in her Macomb home until it overflowed. Finally, she moved into a vacant elementary school, filled 10 classrooms and opened The Closet.

"We had everywhere from maternity to newborns, preemies, all the way up to 18-plus in kids, and then our adults room started from petite smalls all the way up to 5-XXX.

"How many people would come through on an average day?" asked Mitch Albom.

"In the beginning, in about 2009, we started with about maybe 15 to 20 and when the closet was at its best in 2012, we had about 85 clients a day," said Liccardello.

"And how do you know that they were truly needy?" Albom asked.

"We took it on faith. You know it takes a lot to come into a closet sometimes," said Liccardello. "We never wanted people to feel uncomfortable so we treated it like we would like a mall."

Liccardello washed every piece of clothing herself.

"That is a lot of laundry in your house," said Albom.

"Yeah," Liccardello said, laughing.

"You have so you have that sound of the machine going all the time of year," Albom said.

"All the time," said Liccardello.

Unfortunately, in 2012, a school superintendent evicted Liccardello's Closet, claiming she lacked insurance. The operation moved back into her home, until just recently, when Mt. Clemens High school offered space.

Liccardello and volunteers put in countless hours of organizing and washing, but when you point out that she gets no pay ...

"But in actuality it does pay me," said Liccardello. "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, Liccardello is proving there is no size too small or too big for the heart of Detroit.

Heart of Detroit

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