A safe space for students to express themselves

Madelynne Banderman, education specialist for the Colonel’s Cupboard, stands in front of the main shopping rooms for Closet Transform and food pantry in Powell room 215.

Eastern Kentucky University’s Closet TransForm program, associated with the Colonel’s Cupboard, aims to provide gender-affirming clothing to enrolled students at no cost. The Colonel’s Cupboard, an established program that provides food and other necessities to students in need, first began offering toiletries and clothing items in 2018. In 2019, Closet TransForm was created to specifically serve the LGBTQ+ student population.

“Closet TransForm now is a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community to get gender-affirming clothing, and some of those items like binders are available when we have those,” said Madelynne Banderman, education specialist for the Colonel’s Cupboard.  

The clothing, shoes and accessories available in the program come entirely from donations. Students and people within the community have given items to stock the closet. Greek Life has also conducted clothing drives in the past. 

“I would say since I’ve been here, I’ve probably had a lot more faculty and staff members reach out,” said Banderman. 

While many students donate, a large portion of donations come from faculty members rather than from the students themselves. Students who utilize Closet TransForm or the Colonel’s Cupboard are encouraged to also donate when they can.

The staff that runs both the Colonel’s Cupboard and Closet TransForm is mostly student volunteers from Greek Life on campus.  

“I’d say a lot of them volunteer because they need the credit hours or community service hours for their organization, but it’s also that a lot of people want to give back to the cupboard because its helped them in the past,” said Dylan Bechthold, a senior finance and accounting major from Ball Ground, Georgia who volunteers with Student Life and works closely with Colonel’s Cupboard volunteers. 

Since the closet relies entirely on donations, the items available change often. Some of the less commonly donated items, like binders and packers, are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Donations tend to increase near the end of a semester or before a long break when students move out of dorms. 

Due to the limited amount of storage space, Closet TransForm must make decisions about what items will be kept in stock and what items will be sent to other cupboards in the community. These decisions are based on the interests of the students the closet serves. Closet TransForm was able to dramatically increase the amount of clothing kept with their recent move from Commonwealth to the Powell Building.

Students can access the Colonel’s Cupboard and Closet TransForm by appointment or during set walk-in hours. Students must fill out a form to shop, but only a small amount of personal information is required. All personal information is kept entirely confidential. Closet TransForm is a service available to the entire student body and aims to be a safe and available resource for everyone. 

“Students should know that there is no shame or stigma in coming to use the closet or the cupboard. We’re not asking you questions on why you are needing to use the cupboard or need clothes from the closet,” said Banderman.

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