Cathy Hamilton sees kids on what is often one of the worst days of their lives.
The children tend to be in a fragile state when they arrive at San Antonio Threads, removed from abusive homes into the care of the state, headed to a homeless shelter or about to be shuttled to a foster residence.
Some arrive at Hamilton’s Northeast Side clothing boutique wearing stained, tattered clothes or shoes that are barely held together.
Hamilton still marvels at the surprised looks on their faces when staff members invite them into rooms painted a cheerful ocean blue and tell them they can choose two outfits and a pair of shoes from the racks and shelves.
Many are mystified — why would a stranger give them free, new clothes?
Because Hamilton has been there herself. As a young child and teen, she and her family endured violent abuse from her stepfather in Houston for 18 years. It ended when her mother shot and killed the man who had terrorized them for so long.
“Then we were able to live our lives without fear,” she said.
Hamilton knows there’s self-esteem and confidence to be had in getting to choose what you’re going to wear, something that’s new, fits you and is all yours — no hand-me-downs — so she started San Antonio Threads.
All teens deserve to shop with dignity, she said, although many of them think nobody cares.
“We are proving them wrong,” Hamilton said. “We show them that we do care.”
In the last three years, San Antonio Threads has clothed more than 2,000 youth, ages 12 to 21, from across the city.
Recently, the program received a major boost: Philanthropist Kym Rapier donated $3 million to the small nonprofit, which will allow the organization to almost double the number of teens who receive free clothes this year.
“I couldn’t sleep when I had the check for $3 million,” Hamilton said, laughing. “I couldn’t wait to get it into our bank account in the morning.”
Read the full article here