Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Story Continues

Hi Friends, hope everyone is staying well. Continuing on with the story of our new program, Suits & Smiles which provides men in need with job interview and work attire. December came and we finally moved into our new space. Now, I needed clothing, shoes and volunteers. I started reaching out again to people that had previously offered clothing donations. I also really needed rolling racks. From the beginning, I wanted to make sure that our space would always be neat and organized. It was important They are very expensive to buy, particularly good quality ones. I reached out to a friend, Zena, who sells LuLaRoe clothing in Grafton. She has been so supportive of our work and had offered to help with racks before. Zena gave me 2 great rolling racks and set up a FB group with other LuLaRoe reps who were looking to downsize their rolling rack collection. I ended up getting a bunch of heavy duty racks for super cheap- $25 for double racks and $15 for singles.

I also reached out to a lady named Corlis who runs a clothing collaborative, Clothes To Go from a church in North Attleboro. She had read the article about our program in last year's Milford Daily News and had reached out wanting to help with getting me the donations of men's business clothing that she had. We chatted on the phone and I was happy to hear that all of the items she had were already sorted. It makes such a difference to receive donations of items that have been sorted already. She said I come and take what I needed. She has been running her organization for many years and has donated over 2 million pounds of clothing to homeless people, low income families and other charities helping people in need. She was a bundle of energy and really a delight to meet. I picked up a trunk full of great quality items- men's suits/blazers, some of which were brand name, dress shirts, pants, ties and some shoes. The pants and shirts were already organized by size, so that made it even easier to sort when I got it back to our location. I was really impressed with what she had and started to make regular trips down there to "shop" for what we needed.

Over the month, I acquired some other donations. I purchased some items at a great discount through Good360, a website for charities that is a clearing house for companies making bulk donations of all sorts of products. The items are technically free, but Good360 has a handling fee. The fee is usually not too bad and you get brand new items. I was able to get Red Wing men's shoes/boots and in January purchased 3 boxes of absolutely beautiful Banana Republic men's wool dress pants for a tiny fraction of their actual cost.

I also spent time decorating the space- I hung some of my favorite pictures, mostly of flowers and landscapes- all pictures that I've taken. Our space is bare bones, but it was important to me to make it looks as warm and inviting as possible. Pictures of flowers bring me such joy and while I don't necessarily think that everyone else feels the same way, I hoped that the men coming in would find happiness in looking at them too. I bought some basic metal folding chairs, table and a great full length mirror. I also purchased a steamer, an item, that sad to say, I still have to figure out how to use. I was very budget conscious. There was definitely more decorating that I wanted to do, but it was important to keep costs down. I did feel that our space looked inviting, that was important to me.

In mid-December, Maddrey, the Director of Mass Hire Boston's Career Center, came to visit our space to check it out. Mass Hire is part of Goodwill, the organization that originally helped me find my space. He brought Dan with him, who runs the Boston Pre-Release employment program which helps people who are recently released from jail with finding employment. Maddrey wanted Dan to be able to refer men to our program. They were happy to see the space and really liked the clothing that we had so far.

By early January, I was ready to take our first clients! That story will be in our next blog- until next time friends...

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