Gaston Community Church member Brenda Ragland started Brenda’s Closet to provide clothing for those in need.

<p>The clothes available for young children hanging Feb. 22 in Brenda's Closet in Gaston, Indiana. The closet has a variety of items for people of all ages. Ella Howell, DN</p>

The clothes available for young children hanging Feb. 22 in Brenda's Closet in Gaston, Indiana. The closet has a variety of items for people of all ages. Ella Howell, DN

The smell of freshly ground coffee. 

A pulpit with no pews but booths instead.

A unique history makes up Gaston Community Church. 

The church, converted from a former restaurant and bar, is described to be a spiritual “M.A.S.H. Unit” (Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals). A description Pastor Michael “Chap” Osborne feels is perfect for the small church. 

“Over the last 14-15 years, we've had people come in that were bleeding and bruised all over, emotionally and spiritually,” Osborne said. “They get fed, they get healed up just like a M.A.S.H Unit.”

Osborne aimed to make a relatable church and gain the attention of those who don’t feel comfortable in a “traditional” church. There is no dress code, just an ask to come as you are. 

“I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict with 33 years under my belt, and I wanted to see a church that didn't just go out to, ‘If you smell good and you have a nice smile and you dress well, please come to my church,’” he said. “I wanted to hang out with the same people that Jesus hung out with.”

The nondenominational church holds services beginning at 10:30 a.m. Sundays.

Nestled in the “M.A.S.H. Unit” of a church behind the restaurant-style sanctuary is Brenda’s Closet, a clothing bank run solely by Brenda Ragland, a congregation member of the church.

The bank started in 2017, but before Brenda could finish it, she got sick with bacterial meningitis and suffered a stroke in January 2017. She wasn’t able to return to the closet until 2018. 

Expecting to have to get back to work and organize, she instead returned to clothes hung up and the closet put together. The congregation had sorted it for her when she returned along with providing a cake with “Happy Brenda Day” on it. 

“I almost croaked when I walked in there and saw it all,” she said. 

Since then, Brenda has been working on the closet herself. She goes through every donation from clothes to diapers. If the clothes need to be cleaned, she’ll take them to her home and wash them. She estimated roughly two-thirds of what gets donated, she has to wash.

When she has too many donations, she’ll give them to Muncie Mission.

The closet provides support for many different needs, from families who have lost everything to people leaving abusive situations. The closet has also provided clothes for the mortician to use to bury those who have no one giving them comfort in death.

“We’ll find clothes to bury them in. You wouldn't think of that, but we even have afforded clothes to the dead,” Osborne said. 

Osborne said Brenda’s Closet is important in a community like Gaston, Indiana, due to factories closing down and jobs leaving in the past 30 years causing an economic recession and making it a poorer community. 

“We know what happens to a community when somebody has a fire in their home, and they get out of there with the clothes on their back, and that's it,” Osborne said. “We know how the insurance games are played. They're like silly reindeer games, and you need stuff now.”

Osborne remembered one woman who came to Brenda’s Closet barefoot in pajamas. The closet dressed her and gave her some things to take with her. 

Brenda doesn’t have set hours for the closet, instead, people contact her over the Brenda’s Closet Facebook page when they want to use the closet or donate. 

Along with running the closet regularly, Brenda does a pre-Christmas giveaway event held around the second week of December at the church. At this event, Brenda has coats, other clothing items and toys. 

Brenda’s husband, Ron, said she helped more than 100 children at the giveaway in December 2023. What motivates her to keep doing Brenda’s Closet and her other volunteering activities is her childhood. Her mother was hospitalized a lot, and she grew up with an abusive father.

“I don’t want other people to feel like that,” she said.

She started volunteering at 13 as a Candy Striper at Ball Memorial Hospital. Currently, Brenda works as a real estate agent, and she is a member of A Better Life-Brianna’s Hope — a faith-based support and recovery group for those with substance abuse disorder — the Delaware County Regional Wastewater Board and the Harrison Township Board. 

“That's just Brenda,” Ron said. “She doesn't know how to say no. If somebody asks her to do something, she'll do it, that's just the way she is. She always has been.” 

Contact Hannah Amos via email at or on X @Hannah_Amos_394.


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