Ten years ago, Pastor Paul Lavino of New Life Church in Ahwatukee Foothills thought, “If we weren’t here as a church, would anybody miss us?”

At the time, he’s sad to say, they probably wouldn’t, but today with a food bank serving more than 200 families a week and a brand-new clothes closet helping even more, he feels confident they’re doing something right.

The food bank at New Life is open three days a week. So far in 2014, they’ve served more than 20,000 people, Lavino said. Each day that they are open, they see 40 to 60 families coming in for a box of food. It’s because of the success of the food bank and the need they’ve seen there that the church decided to start a clothes closet.

“We’ve always been a donation center for everything, so we take everything and use it or sell it,” said Stacey Prusacki, director of the clothes closet. “We were selling everything at garage sales, but I just started setting aside the clothes that were donated. We took the best and turned it into a clothing closet.”

The closet is open to the public on Saturdays, following the food bank, from noon to 2 p.m. Anyone is welcome to come in, go through the clothes and select five items to take for free.

There are clothes for every member of the family. There are women’s, juniors, infants, children and men’s clothes available. There are even some specialty clothes that come in like prom dresses, scrubs, dance outfits and suits.

“Every week I can’t believe how God is taking care of us,” Prusacki said. “One week the ladies told me they need more larger sizes. I told them I would pray for it and we got a ton of plus-size clothes that week. Same thing with kids clothes. God is really providing for us.”

Prusacki said one need they have is for children’s hangers. They also need more men to come in and get clothes because they’re running out of room in that area.

The selection at the closet is high quality. Volunteers sort all the donations that come in. Some are trash, others go to garage sales and only the best are washed and hung on the racks.

So far, the response has been positive. The church has served more than 250 people through the clothes closet in the first month.

“I just think it’s been extremely positive and the people are so grateful,” Lavino said. “A lot of people don’t know there’s this need. I didn’t know there was a need in Ahwatukee until we started this.”

There are no requirements for people coming to the clothes closet. Those in need are welcome to come back every week. The selection changes every week, Prusacki said. As people take items, volunteers replace them with something new right away. The church is also always accepting more donations.

“People need people,” Prusacki said. “It’s really a good opportunity for us to reach out to the community. We’re here. If they need clothes or prayer or food, we’re here. It feels so good to help people. I know they need it and they are so grateful.”

The church is located at 11832 S. Warner-Elliot Loop. For more information on the church and its ministries, visit www.newlifephx.com.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

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