Some of the supplies in the Life Essentials Closet (Photo Credit: James Rice III)

The Time Out Youth (TOY) Life Essentials Closet is open, by appointment, for any LGBTQ youth in need. James Rice III, volunteer and special events coordinator, took over the Life Essentials Closet in 2017, working to expand it into something more than a simple pantry. 

Affectionately referred to as “Gay Walmart” by clients, Rice has updated the closet to include items most needed by members of TOY. 

Says Rice: “My lived experience [as] a black gay man has allowed me to walk into the closet and see there was nothing there for black and brown people.

“It took some uncomfortable conversations but we were no longer going to use the method of being happy with what people give us,” Rice explains. TOY now asks youth to search through Amazon and highlight items that would be useful to them. 

In order to ensure that all youth have the most inclusive experience within the closet, Rice has also implemented an organizational system that is gender-nonspecific. “We all have what we prefer,” Rice emphasizes. “With skincare and fragrance, people like what they like. We don’t use any gendered items; anyone can get what they want. We place brands with the same brand, but we don’t section anything off as ‘men’s’ or ‘women’s.’”

Before the Life Essentials Closet was temporarily closed during the state-regulated two-week shut-down, TOY contacted all youth advised them to stock up on necessities. Having nearly emptied their supplies during this time, the TOY staff would do home deliveries of food and any emergency goods. 

After this period, Time Out Youth began operating on an appointment basis. Access to the closet was never denied, just modified during the pandemic. Youth in need of “bare essentials” can email Rice at Jrice@timeoutyouth.org for an appointment. 

For those wanting to give, Rice urges potential donors to read the regulations on the Life Essentials Closet page. Gift cards may be donated to stores such as Walmart, Target, Amazon or Walgreens but should be no more than ten dollars on each. All items must be brand new and full-sized. 

The Life Essentials Closet is in need of some custom-made shelves for their uniquely-shaped room. Added shelving would allow for more items to be displayed and more youth to peruse the items.  

To view the Life Essentials Closet needs, go to bit.ly/2QB7IVB. To make a donation to Time Out Youth, go to bit.ly/3u6G2Wq. If you would like the donation to go directly to the Life Essentials Closet, specify so in the comment section. 

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