Thirty years ago a Long Beach building contractor created a literal door to kindness for people with less than he had.
There’s a glass door flanked by an antique shop and a yoga studio on a busy stretch of Fourth Street in Long Beach. When the door’s open you can’t walk in. A waist-high, three foot deep particle board box fills the entryway, and clean, usable clothes spill out. This is The Free Box.
P. Worldson, 67, opens the door at 8 o’clock every morning.
"Somebody dropped off about two bags of women’s clothes," says Worldson, "underneath it there’s a lot of men’s clothes. There’s a lot of stuff in the bottom. People will just pull it out. We used to have all stacked in there but they pull it all out, they look at it, and then they push it back in."
Worldson built the door 30 years ago for World Evolution, the church that occupies the building. Its mission is to carry out the idea that "what’s mine is yours."
Angel Hernandez pulled up to The Free Box on his beach cruiser, for the second time this day. He’s homeless. "I just found out about this like a few days ago," says Hernandez, "because it was raining and I needed an extra sweater to wear and someone told me that this is a free box that generous people donate clothes to for our less fortunate."
From a stool a couple of yards away, Worldson says it’s fulfilling to see the expression on people’s faces as they walk away with something in their hands. "The laughter and everything when they find something for themselves and how they’re jazzed."
There are rules taped to the door of The Free Box: Keep clothes off the sidewalk. Keep it clean. Take what you want. Put something back in when you can.
Angelica Madrigal donated a few items to The Free Box. She’s lived around the block for 20 years but she only discovered the door about a year ago. "I found some good dresses, and the shoes that she wears now, I found it in here, that way it saved me a lot of money because I have six kids, so they help me a lot."
She’s pointing to her daughter Saskia’s clean, glittery-rainbow, low-top sneakers. "They actually fit me."
The door stays open seven days a week, from 8 in the morning, until 8 at night.