WEST WARWICK — When Debra Roffo cut the ribbon on Angel’s Closet in January, her hope was to offer a place where children and teens could easily get their hands on new and gently-used designer clothing. Nearly a year later, though her focus remains largely on dressing kids who need it, she’s eager to welcome all members of the public in to shop quality duds for cheap.
“I want people to come in and see what we do,” Roffo said Thursday, standing among racks of brand new Champion sweatshirts and Nike jerseys and North Face jackets in her storefront on Main Street. “I want them to come in and shop.”
Roffo founded her nonprofit Angel in Action several years ago in hopes of honoring her mom Ann Shipley’s legacy of helping those in need through practicing random acts of kindness.
“If we see something that we think we could do, we’ll do it,” Roffo said, recalling a walkway her organization installed recently at the Coventry home of a wheelchair-bound elderly woman.
As for the clothing donations, those were inspired by a social media post Roffo read a couple of years ago regarding a middle schooler who was being bullied.
“It was really bothering me,” Roffo said. “I just didn’t get it — why was this child getting bullied?”
Determined to find answers, Roffo asked her grandson’s peers to offer insight into the reasons certain kids are picked on. She was shocked to learn that most often it’s the clothing — and especially the shoes — a kid wears that leads to bullying.
Armed with this new knowledge, Roffo got to work raising funds to purchase new sneakers to in turn sell for cheap, and in some cases give away, to kids going back to school.
“A lot of the kids were shocked. They said, ‘I would never be able to afford a pair of Vans, and I’ve always wanted a pair,’” she said. “You see the excitement on these teenagers’ faces and it’s just the best thing in the world.”
A shelf in a back room at Angels Closet is stacked with boxes of sneakers, all reserved for school kids who need new footwear.
But throughout the rest of the store, a variety of new and like-new clothing to fit shoppers of any age are for sale to anyone from the public.
Racks in the shop hold children’s coats, snow pants and other winter gear; a variety of colorful, themed leggings line a wall; fun jewelry is set up on a table.
Attached to an Under Armour vest displayed in the window, a tag reads $124.99; Roffo is selling it for just $20. New, designer sweatshirts donated by SquadLocker hang nearby, available for only $5.
In setting up the shop, Roffo said she aimed to make the space reminiscent of a boutique.
“I don’t want people to think of this as a second-hand store, because it’s not,” she said. “It’s all new, really nice stuff.”
Roffo said her intent in opening to the public is to make enough money to cover her overhead expenses — as a nonprofit, all her money is made through fundraisers, donations and sales.
“I get a lot of donations in, which helps,” Roffo said, “but I get so nervous when those donations don’t come in — how am I going to do this?”
She said money from sales also allow her to do random acts of kindness.
And though she caters largely to teenagers, Roffo also wants to make sure working families are taken care of.
“A lot of them may be struggling for the first time, and they’ve got kids, and they don’t know what’s out there because they’ve never had to ask for help,” she said. “I want to help these families who wouldn’t otherwise ask for it.”
Angel’s Closet is located at 1542 Main St., West Warwick. For more information, visit angelinactionri.org.