In 2010 when Impact Locally began our clothing handouts the idea was simple raise clothing donations that could help people survive the winter from October to May. We collected sweaters, hoodies, jackets, gloves, beanies, etc.. and handed them out during emergency situations, such as a blizzard. We called it the Keep Colorado Warm Campaign.
First handing out donations out of garbage bags from the back of trucks in parking lots around downtown. We were limited by resources, donors, storage space and volunteers but we made it work and were able to serve hundreds of people each month. Seeing the huge need we expanded to year round. There was only one problem. One of the goals of Impact Locally is to restore humanity to those in need and shopping out of garbage bags isn't very human. Inspired by the idea of Street Stores Travis Singhaus created the first Denver based mobile clothing store.
Organizing clothing items into separate bins and having volunteers at each bin helping individuals and families to find what they wanted and the size that fit things began to improve. Also Impact was able to secure storage space giving us the ability to sort and store donations throughout the month. By the beginning of 2018 we were literally handing out clothing to thousands of individuals and families per month.
Again while this was a drastic improvement there was still something lacking. If you're homeless there is no dignity in getting your clothing from a parking lot. Whether out of bins or a bag it's still a reminder that you're homeless and often viewed as less than human. You can still only access clothing when handouts happen which is typically only once or twice a month. Which in the event of a blizzard or storm you hope and pray that you have something to help you survive.
Out of this the idea "Humanity" was born. Humanity is a free retail clothing store for those in need, where people able to shop four days a week, getting clothing off of racks or shelves, and trying them on in an actual fitting room. Here's the catch, we can't do it alone. Impact Locally is donor and volunteer funded. With a 100% of the donations we receive going back into our programs. So we need your help, first by providing clothing donations of all types, from interview, street clothing and cold weather gear and then second by becoming a member you help to truly restore humanity and their dignity by providing an experience like you would find in any other clothing store. Your membership also helps us to purchase and provide items that just otherwise don't get donated such as underwear, certain hygiene items, backpacks, cold weather sleeping bags etc.. So become an member today, it doesn't take much, about the price of Starbucks a couple of days a month or the price of a combo at any fast food restaurant. In advance thank you for helping us to make an impact and for becoming a member of humanity!!
WHY WE'RE UNIQUE
So what makes us unique? Why are we the first store of our kind, because let's be 100% upfront there are plenty of other clothing programs out there, companies that have been around for decades, and even a few other "stores". When we set out to create the store we not only looked at hundreds of other programs and analyzed what was and wasn't working but we also talked with the homeless community and got their perspective. We have the greatest respect and admiration for these other organizations because without them we wouldn't be able to learn and grow and create something new.
Clientele - We're a store specifically created to serve the homeless community and help with the specific needs and obstacles they face.
There are no hoops - One of the things that deters a number of individuals and families struggling on the streets is the hoops they have to jump through just to get something as simple as clothing. Many organizations require either identification or a referral from another agency. This is so common that even though we don't require it many partnering organizations still send clients with one. We don't need people to qualify their homelessness. Also a number of organizations require clients to do choirs in order to shop. While we have a number of people in the homeless community who volunteer their time at the store this is not a requirement. We receive donations for free why wouldn't we want to give them away for free.
You can shop more often - A lot of programs either because of staffing or storage limit how often people can get clothing from anywhere from once a month to once or twice a year. If you're homeless and your stuff is either stolen, taken in police homeless sweeps, or the weather drastically changes you need clothing immediately. We decided that shoppers would only be limited to once a day. This way you don't have to wear the same pair of socks for a week, or if it's going to snow pray that some how you get a jacket.
We're an actual retail store - So a lot of organizations and churches have what's known as a community closet, but it's not an actual store setting. It was incredibly important to us that the store be set up as a real store, in downtown, within walking distance to the shelters and that it be approachable rather than being in some office in a resource center. So while we have a resource center that's part of the store it's part of the store rather than the other way around.
Types of clothing and how you access them - A number of clothing programs offer clothing but often times it's only for interviews or jobs, while this is great it doesn't help someone needing a winter jacket and often times you're required to be part of a jobs program, so what do you do if you have an interview today? If you're homeless a job can mean the difference between life and death so we don't want someone to have to wait or have to earn a business suit they can wear to interview. We want to make sure they have every chance to succeed now!
BECOMING A MEMBER
Probably the most common question we get asked is how do we fund such an incredible effort, is the space donated, do we operate off of grants or government funding? The answer to all of that is no. Unfortunately grants and government funding is highly competitive, slow, and highly restrictive. We want to be able to adapt, expand and respond to the needs of the community immediately rather than having to wait years for new funding. We need to be able to make improvements to store and the quality of service. In studying other business models we decided to think out of the box and use the more modern approach of membership crowdfunding. By becoming a member you're able to actively participate in Humanity and play a part in it's success. We're able to involve the community in a way that they see tangible results that directly impact the store, and with 100% of financial donations going towards the program and everything in the store being given away at know cost our members know that they're actually help those in need rather than just lining managements pockets.
The benefits of membership
BRONZE - Receives a Impact wrist band
SILVER - Receives a #MakingAnImpact vinyl sticker or Impact Water Bottle
GOLD - Receives Impact Logo t-shirt
PLATINUM - Receives Impact Custom Apparel t-shirt
DIAMOND - Receives all benefits and name listed on site as a major supporter
Members must be a member for at least 90 days before rewards will be shipped.
So there are three different ways to donate to the store the first being a one time financial donation. There are a number of items that just don't get donated that we end up having to purchase and while you're welcome to purchase and donate those items on your own because we buy in bulk we're able to get better pricing and stretch every dollar further to help more people.
Second is by purchasing items directly off of our Wishlist. If you're able to do this the items are tax free and shipped directly to the store for free. Again these items are things are almost never donated and often times end up being purchased.
Lastly in kind donations of either adult clothing, hygiene items, or outdoor gear. While we always happy to receive donations we do have some guidelines on what we do and don't accept because of the community that we serve and because of the size of the store. Please make sure to review these first before donating and to get our address and donation hours. Thank you in advance for donating because without your generoisity the store would not exist.
Are you looking for ways for you or your organization to get involved? There are plenty of volunteer opportunities at the store. We are staffed and run by volunteers and always in need of help so whether you're available during the week or want to volunteer a few hours on the weekend we'd love to have you join us.
Here's a few frequently asked questions that you may have:
What are your hours or what days can I volunteer? - Currently we're open three days a week, Thursday and Friday from 11am to 5pm and or Saturdays from 10am to 4pm
What will I or my group be doing? - Typically you'll either be helping customers shop or helping to tag and sort donations.
Are there any age restrictions for kids? - 12 and older if accompanied by a parent or guardian and 16 and up to volunteer on their own. If unaccompanied by an adult anyone under the age of 18 must have a liability waiver completed by a parent or guardian.
Can I do community service hours at the store? - While we're happy to help you complete community service hours, if court ordered we will need to ask a few questions first. Please make sure that you bring all necessary documents with you so that we can make sure to sign off on our time.
Where do I park? - Parking directly across the street from the store or on any of the side streets is free and not time restricted, but if unavailable there is metered parking a block away on Welton.
What do I need to bring? - Only a great attitude, a willingness to work, and we suggest wearing comfortable shoes.
IN THE NEWS
So after 4 years we've learned and grown quite a bit. We're now in the process of opening or 2nd and 3rd locations and are getting ready to expand our original location. The last 11 years have taught us how to better serve those in need by putting quality over quantity and dignity over a cheaper budget. With each step we took significant measures to improve how we help those in need and our currently serving over twenty five hundred people a month. In the coming months we have plans to expand our original locations professional outreach by not only including a dedicated computer lab, weekly jobs skills classes and a full time employment counselor. This expansion will also give us a greater opportunity to help those specifically looking for clothing for interviews and jobs and help us to help others permanently get off the streets.
We are incredibly excited for what's to come throughout the rest of this year and how we'll be able to continue to better serve the community and give back. As with anything funding plays an important role in what's to come, so please get involved, volunteer your time, donated and if you're able to become a sponsor or member today.