840 Vernon: The Blog of Am Shalom

This is the blog of Am Shalom, Reform congregation in Glencoe, Illinois.

#blessed - Pop-Up Shop

Throughout the month of October, the Am Shalom community brought in clothing for under-resourced families to "shop" during Parent Teacher Conferences in November. Laura Horn, Am Shalom's Assistant Executive Director, wrote the following note after the Am Shalom pop-up shop closed for the night:

I was on such a high last night when I left Andrew Cooke Magnet School that I wanted to share how the hours of hard work by members of our community made a difference. 

We started this project with more than 30 bags of clothing. We had over 40 linear feet of hanging items, all mixed together, including amazing men’s suits, even a tuxedo and some brand new dresses. How we were going to make sense of all this chaos left me feeling paralyzed, but as always some special people stepped up. Through their organizational skills (Susan Smith, Ellen Stafman & Ellin Blumenthal), lateral thinking (Barbara Dolinger) and creativity and hard work (Robin Plotkin and Bob Smith), we set up two rooms at Andrew Cooke that looked like boutiques and engaged families in a way that made all feel welcome. We didn't have any children's clothes to offer the families; instead, our two artists Jonathan Plotkin and Carol Kerman entertained the kids and made them feel so special.

At least half the items have already been taken and I’m certain the rest will be gone when we close this evening. But more than that, we heard or overheard how they would use these items: at a new job; for one man, a promotion at a new job (!); one woman needed a new size after losing 70 pounds; another was getting her first job in an office after being a housekeeper who wore a uniform for years; a woman who is now an aide at another school and wanted to wear “cooler” clothes. The most heartbreaking story for me was the father who said now he could go to his child’s concert without embarrassing his daughter. And later, we heard about a dad who cried to his child's second grade teacher because it was the first time in years he had anything new or nice for himself.

Another wonderful connection happened out of our work when the coordinator of Cradles to Crayons and Nan Heim, the school principal, learned about each other. The students at Andrew Cooke Magnet School will now receive packages of clothes as needed! How awesome that two of our beneficiaries will now be working together?

A district coordinator came by as well; she loved the “shop” and shyly asked if we might do this for an elementary school a few blocks away that is in much greater need.

Thanks to all of the wonderful volunteers and clothing contributors for extending the reach of Am Shalom to make the world a better place!

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