Free store helping to empower teenage girls

CLEVELAND – When you walk into Pearl’s Closet inside the Gordon Square Arcade, you’re supposed to feel right at home.

“It’s what I do, it’s what I love,” Brittney Smith said. She is the founder of the non-profit organization PEARLS, which stands for “Positively Empowering And Restoring Ladies Self-esteem”.

Smith has dedicated his life to giving back.

“I’ve been a community servant since I was 5 years old, it’s a labor of heart for me,” Smith said. “I love people, I love being able to make people happy. It breaks my heart to see people suffer in any way.

That’s why Pearl’s Closet is a completely free store. You may have seen those community stores offering free takeout often these days.

At Pearl’s, the focus is on young women, tweens and teens.

Gary Abrahamson

Pearl’s Closet inside the Gordon Square Arcade

“The items we have are very trendy, nice – we only offer clothes that we would wear ourselves,” Smith explained.

Alongside the clothes racks, you will find shoes, jewelry, accessories, handbags and all kinds of hygiene products.

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Gary Abrahamson

Pearl’s Closet inside the Gordon Square Arcade

It offers a personalized shop experience at no cost, and you can even schedule a private shopping appointment to pick out your free items.

Arielle Pickett, eighth grade, loves spending her time volunteering at the store.

“We basically wanted it to feel comfortable and look like a regular store, so they didn’t have to feel embarrassed about having to buy second-hand clothes,” Arielle said.

She says she gets as much as she gives.

“It’s going to make me a better person when I get older by helping people in my community, girls my age, who I see are in need,” Arielle added.

We know the need in Greater Cleveland is great. The data showed that our city has the highest poverty rate among major cities in the country.

We focus a lot on food and essentials, but having something that makes you feel like you can also be essential.

“We want people to have what they need, and we want girls and women to feel empowered,” Smith said. “We want them, as soon as they walk in here, to feel like this is their home, that we’re all family – that we’re all connected and basically supporting them.”

And we know you’re going to ask — how can you donate?

Smith is there on Wednesdays and Sundays to receive donations.

The free store started off as women-only, but has had such an incredible response that it’s expanding to offer men’s and boys’ clothing over the next month.

PEARLS is located at 6516 Detroit Ave., Cleveland, Ohio 44102.

You can find more information here.

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Gary Abrahamson

Pearl’s Closet inside the Gordon Square Arcade

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