CLEVELAND — Some savvy shoppers in northeast Ohio are using their bargain hunting skills to stock community closets. 

What You Need To Know

  • Wee Care Closet is a nonprofit started by a real estate agent, her colleague and her smart-shopping sister

  • The ladies find items at deep discounts and donate them to schools, youth leagues and other groups

  • They're hoping to accept donations to have a greater effect on the region

Tammy Koleski is the driving force behind the project. 

“I’m just a normal real estate agent,” she said. “Normal citizen.”

Her sister, Koleski said, is the one with the superpower. 

“I call her our secret shopper,” Koleski said. “Her name is Pam.”

She’s skilled in finding bulk deals at deep discounts, like the dozens of boxes of brand new shoes that filled Koleski’s car for a recent delivery from the Wee Care Closet

“The deals she can find — why would you not try to give to those less fortunate, when you can and as you can?” Koleski said

The nonprofit is primarily funded by Koleski, who started donating the deals they discovered to schools after a colleague mentioned the need. 

“When we can buy a hundred of something for the price of three, we want to buy a hundred of something for the price of three,” Koleski said. 

The ladies started shopping for a cause during the pandemic. Koleski said they began this year rolling donations into Westwood Elementary and more than a dozen other districts and groups in the region. 

“We’ve already given away thousands and thousands of dollars in school supplies and clothes and shoes and hats and gloves and hygiene products and household products,” Westwood Elementary School Principal Janet Kubasak said.

Kubasak said she’s noticed a shift in students since the pandemic. 

“Things in our communities have changed and I think this is a really good way for them to have the things that they need to be successful in school,” she said. 

The school stocks the donated supplies in a store format on the stage in their cafeteria and empowers families to shop the shelves for free. 

“You feel like you know it more so in the urban areas and when you think country, you think, ‘Oh, the farmers, all the money,’” Koleski said. “But the need is everywhere.”

Because of that, Koleski said she’s hoping for community donations to allow them to continue being smart shoppers and also expand their outreach to other districts.