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From left, volunteers Lynne Alesi, 5-year-old Emma Monroy, Brenda “Nina” Hamilton and Julie Citino gather inside Nina’s Closet, 535 E. State St., Salem, which also serves as the headquarters for the non-profit Ohio CAN Change Addiction Now Columbiana County, directed by Hamilton. A place where kinship and foster care families can get free clothing, toys and other necessities for children who come into their care, Nina’s Closet will hold an open house from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier)
SALEM — Brenda Hamilton at times pulled clothing from her own closets at home to help kinship and foster families.
That gave her the idea for Nina’s Closet, a location where those families can come for free children’s clothing, toys and personal care items for the kids who come into their care.
The name Nina came from her 5-year-old granddaughter Emma, who is in Hamilton’s care. Emma calls her Nina.
“A lot of times, stuff came from our closet. This is just a big, giant Nina’s closet,” she said.
As director of the non-profit Ohio CAN Change Addiction Now Columbiana County, she rented an office above a business in downtown Salem for the past two years where she already kept a limited amount of those necessities. She wanted to have one location and when she put the word out on social media about her idea and what she wanted to do, the donations starting pouring in and she was out of room.
That’s when some community members came together to help her find the larger space at 535 E. State St., prep it for occupation and organize the donated clothing and other items in time for an open house from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.
People are welcome to come and see Nina’s Closet, but social distancing and mask-wearing will be required.
“This is for families of kinship and foster care so they can get whatever they need for free. A lot of times, you get a child in the middle of the night,” she said, adding they may come with nothing and need clothing, shoes or baby items. “We’re just trying to make sure everything is here.”
According to Hamilton, the state puts the number of kids in foster or kinship care at 16,000, but that’s not accurate because it doesn’t take into account the kids a parent asks grandparents or other relatives to keep while they’re trying to get their act together that the state may not know about. Kinship represents kids placed with family members while foster represents kids placed with a family not related to them. Sometimes those families don’t have on hand what they need for the kids given to them and they may not have the funds to buy everything.
“Everybody knows it’s needed,” she said regarding Nina’s Closet.
Hamilton was thankful for the help in finding the location and getting it ready, especially from Dave Joyce of Supreme Steam who cleaned the carpets, Charlie the Painter Charlie Powell who painted, Home Depot for the donation of wood for shelving, and friends Sara Baer, Robin Gray, Dawn Fender, Julie Citino and Lynne Alesi for all their help. She was especially thankful for Antha Roberts and Walmart for many donations, including school supplies.
Nina’s Closet is accepting donations of gently used infant through adult clothing, nursery items, shoes, toys and hygiene products. No electronics or household items are needed. To make a donation, call ahead at 330-277-9625. Monetary donations are also accepted. Make checks out to Nina’s Closet/Ohio CAN and mail to Nina’s Closet, c/o Brenda Hamilton, 342 W. Pidgeon Road, Salem, Ohio 44460.
Outside the front of Nina’s Closet is a Blessing Box stocked with food items in memory of Amanda Shay, who passed away in 2017 and was from New Waterford.
Nina’s Closet will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays or by appointment by calling 330-277-9625.
This will also serve as the Ohio CAN Change Addiction Now Columbiana County office, with Nina’s Closet a project of the non-profit which caters to families dealing with addiction. Information on addiction and recovery services will be available. Ohio CAN is also a distributor of Narcan through Project Dawn and the Family Recovery Center.
A program for Holy Yoga will be offered by Kimberly Starr at some point, along with other programming for kids and guest speakers for families.
A drawing is being held for a convertible crib, changing table and bedding set, window valances, diaper stacker, toy bag, throw pillow and wall decor, along with a musical teddy bear mobile, baby seat, a foam crib and toddler mattress and waterproof mattress pad cover. Tickets are $25 each or five for $100, with all proceeds going to Nina’s Closet.
With Christmas coming up, Hamilton said they’re having a wish tree for gifts for children. Come get a tag or just bring something. She’ll be taking part in the upcoming Stuff a Cruiser event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 28 at Salem Walmart where donations of new toys and clothing will be accepted for Columbiana County families in need. Stuff a Cruiser is a partnership of Salem Police Department, Columbiana County Sheriff’s Office, Quaker Lodge F.O.P. 88 and Ohio CAN, with local police K-9s Simon, Argo and Hunter special guests.

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