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Creating Second Chances for the People We Serve

copy-of-img_8415-smallWe’ve all experienced the transformative power of a well-fitting, good-looking outfit. Wearing a new pair of shoes or finding a pair of jeans that fit just right can uplift a person’s spirits and brighten their day. And for homeless and low-income individuals who do not have the means or resources to secure that perfect outfit, this holds just as true.

In their seven-year relationship with Vinfen, Second Chances has provided wardrobe staples, interview outfits, and even prom dresses for dozens of the people we serve in the Cambridge/Somerville area. Founded in 2005, this unique clothing donation program works with existing service providers, like Vinfen, to meet the specific needs of individuals.

“When you’re going through the kinds of transitions that the folks we serve go through, having a nice outfit can be such a confidence boost, so esteem-building, that it’s a big deal,” said Second Chances Founder and CEO Andrea Shapiro.

Second Chances has enabled hundreds of individuals to receive outfits for everyday activities, job interviews, housing appointments, and weddings. In fact, it was through conversations with Vinfen staff that Second Chances identified a need for clothing for workouts and physical therapy. Now, Second Chances supports those we serve as they strive to lead healthier, happier lives.

“I’d been living with my grandmother for the past year and unable to find a steady job,” said Kaitlin, an individual served by Vinfen and Second Chances. “I was starting to become hopeless. I don’t have any money, so interview clothes were really out of the question. One week after my Social Worker put in a request, a large bag arrived with my name on it.  I never could have imagined owning such wonderful clothing. Now with my new suit, I really feel good when I show up for interviews.”

Kaitlin is not alone. Others served by both Vinfen and Second Chances have asserted that their new clothing makes them “feel human again.” Former Vinfen staff member Mike Prokop said of Second Chances, “We have had no more of a consistent ally in providing our clients with high-quality, attractive clothing that helps them achieve their goals while boosting their confidence and promoting self-respect.”

This reputation is the byproduct of years of success matching individuals with clothing that fits their wants and needs, allowing them to present their best selves. Second Chances works with human service organizations as well as other clothing donation programs like Dress for Success and Solutions At Work, and companies that donate new clothing, like TJ Maxx and Charles River Apparel.

“Second Chances” refers to the individuals receiving clothing and to the clothing itself, which is routinely reused and recycled. According to Andrea Shapiro, Second Chances counts conservation and recycling as an equal part of its mission.copy-of-img_7281

About 10-20% of the 150,000 pounds of the clothing donated to Second Chances each year is a match for the people they serve. Some clothing, shoes, and accessories that are not a perfect match for clients is sold wholesale, and items in poor condition, or used socks and underwear are recycled through textile milling plants, which use the textiles for futon stuffing, car floor mats, and other post-consumer uses. For this reason, Second Chances sets itself apart from other clothing donation programs by accepting donations of all kinds, and leaving almost no waste. “The recycling piece of our work is crucial to us, and people have been very excited about reducing waste,” Andrea said.

Though they accept any and all donations, Second Chances is always in need of larger sizes of women’s clothing, women’s shoes, good condition men’s and children’s clothing and shoes, and good condition workout gear. With a fantastic reputation of supporting those we serve and reducing waste, Vinfen is proud to partner with Second Chances.

If you’d like to work with Second Chances to transform the lives of people served by Vinfen and other human service organizations in Massachusetts, visit Second Chances’ website at www.secondchances.org to learn more and locate their clothing donation bins in Arlington, Watertown, Cambridge, and Somerville.