By Katarina Velazquez
Greeley Tribune, Colo.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Leanna’s Closet will reopen its doors after a nearly five-year hiatus with the help of Greeley nonprofits Women2Women and Habitat for Humanity. The organization provides free business clothing to low-income and disadvantaged women for job interviews and initial days on the job.
Greeley Tribune, Colo.
In Leanna’s Closet’s early days of operation, Michelle Vetting remembers asking a woman for her shoe size.
Vetting was the volunteer coordinator for the nonprofit organization before it closed in 2012. She was helping the woman put together a professional outfit out of fancy, donated clothes for a job interview.
The woman couldn’t answer the question. She had been receiving hand-me-down shoes from her brother for as long as she could remember. Those are the women Vetting said she encountered and remembered most while working for the nonprofit. She helped them. That’s why her heart broke when the nonprofit had to close its doors.
“You really just tried to make them feel special,” Vetting said. “You could actually see their spirits lifted.”
But as of this week, her heart has become full again.
Leanna’s Closet will reopen its doors after a nearly five-year hiatus with the help of Greeley nonprofits Women2Women and Habitat for Humanity. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday starting in May, located in the back of the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, 2400 29th St.
The organization provides free business clothing to low-income and disadvantaged women for job interviews and initials days on the job.
The nonprofit distributes clothing based on referrals, and women can receive vouchers from specific agencies such as A Woman’s Place, United Way of Weld County, Social Services and more.
“It’s a program that helps women who are trying to help themselves by finding employment,” said Patty Gates, president of Greeley’s Women2Women nonprofit.
Leanna’s Closet is operating now under the umbrella of Women2Women, which is a nonprofit that provides financial assistance to local women through a referral and application system.
Gates said combining the three nonprofits was a gradual and natural collaboration because they all have a passion to help out those in the community and to give back.
“All of us have our hearts in the same place,” she said.
Alexia Peake Inhulsen, new chairwoman for Leanna’s Closet, said the idea to bring Leanna’s Closet back to life stemmed about three years ago. But the hardest part was finding a new location for the organization. The reason the store closed in 2012 was because of foreclosure of the Greeley Mall, and Peake Inhulsen said the past few years have been a struggle to find a new home.
Cheri Witt-Brown, executive director for Habitat, provided that home for the nonprofit, making Habitat for Humanity the last piece of the puzzle to bring Leanna’s Closet re-opening to fruition.
“When I heard they had a need for space, it was a no-brainer,” she said. “We came together to meet that need to help so many other people.”
Peake Inhulsen, Gates and Witt-Brown spearheaded the collaborating nonprofits. About seven women sit on the board for Leanna’s Closet, including Peake Inhulsen, who also worked over the past few years to get the nonprofit established again. Those women are Sarah Boyd, Felecia Burke, Jennifer Griffin, Deena McBain, Karyl Pierpont and Carrie Strauch.
Peake Inhulsen said she and her partners wanted to revive Leanna’s Closet because there is a high need in Greeley to help low-income women attempting to get back on their feet. They respected the goal of Leanna’s Closet, and they wanted to be the ones to bring it back to the community.
Leanna’s Closet was started in 2002 and is named after Leanna Anderson, a Greeley businesswoman, philanthropist and women’s advocate. After she died, her friends and family found that there was not a community clothing closet for women who were trying to enter or re-enter the workforce — so they made one.
Volunteers for Leanna’s Closet help qualifying women pick out professional outfits and help give them the confidence they need to succeed in the workforce, Gates said.
“Anytime you can give a woman or family a hand up for a fresh start, you do it,” Burke said.