It had been a tough day for 16-year-old Marcie*. She had just learned that her brother was being adopted. She was glad for him, but couldn’t help but wonder when she would find her forever family, too. She missed him already. Edna, The Coalition’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter, recognized that she needed a little extra cheer, so she brought her to ReFresh, The Coalition’s resale boutique.
Edna knew that Marcie’s closet at her foster home was bare. Marcie was hesitant at first, but Edna encouraged her to try on some clothes.
“I guess I do need some khaki shorts for work,” Marcie said.
A big storm had rolled in that day, keeping most shoppers at home, so Marcie and Edna had the store to themselves, with ReFresh volunteers there to help. Slowly, as Marcie began to find outfits she liked, her demeanor changed. Her smile returned.
The volunteers helped her carry all of her favorites to the cash register. When the total rang up, Marcie’s eyes grew wide. Between the deep discount that youth in foster care receive at ReFresh, and the Rewards coupons she was given, she owed less than a dollar. She now owned a wardrobe of quality, fashionable clothing that she could wear to school and work. She left ReFresh that day, her spirit lifted.
Making the most of every dollar
Did you know … kids in foster care only receive a $350 clothing stipend for the entire year? We know that does not stretch very far, especially for older youth. That is why ReFresh is an integral part of our mission to support kids in foster care and their families. Youth in foster care receive a 90% discount on all clothing and accessories in the store, and foster/adoptive/kinship families receive a 30% discount. In 2018, ReFresh sold 1,610 items to foster youth.
It all started in the late 1990s. The Coalition established The KidStore, a small retail store that provided new and gently used clothing to foster/adoptive children at minimal cost. It was housed on the 2nd floor of Tyler Place Presbyterian Church. In 2006, with the support of May Company, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Build-A-Bear Workshop, KSDK NewsChannel 5, and local artist Charles Houska, KidStore hosted a Grand Re-Opening Celebration. The expansion and updates allowed The Coalition to serve even more families.
In 2009, The Coalition won a Social Entrepreneurship grant from Washington University’s Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship. After months of planning, market research, and hiring for the perfect team, The Coalition launched ReFresh in August 2011 with a Grand Opening at its new location in Brentwood.
Today, ReFresh is a full-operation resale boutique. It is filled with trendy clothing, including a section boasting names like Kate Spade, Tory Burch, and more. Its prices beat those you’ll find at other discount chains.
You’ll find the red carpet runway outside the upstairs dressing room. There, you can model the latest fashions in front of your friends, who wait comfortably on the lounge couches while they watch TV or browse a fashion magazine.
Other than three store co-managers, ReFresh is completely powered by volunteers. In 2018, 328 volunteers from the community spent 3,612 hours at ReFresh, helping sort, organize, and tag all donated clothing and accessories, dress mannequins, and engage with shoppers. Volunteers include individuals, students, families, religious and civic groups, and local businesses. Corporations like Maritz, Edward Jones, HomeState Health, Wells Fargo, and Great Southern Bank regularly send groups of their employees to ReFresh to serve, as it has proven to be a great team-building experience that also benefits the community.
In 2018, 328 volunteers from the community spent 3,612 hours at ReFresh, helping sort, organize, and tag all donated clothing and accessories, dress mannequins, and engage with shoppers.
“My favorite part of working here is the volunteers,” said Tammy Hayes, co-manager at ReFresh. “They aren’t getting paid, they just believe in our mission. I love getting to meet a broad spectrum of people – they are all so unique … just like the clothes at ReFresh! They make it so interesting and fun.”
Hannah Stroup began volunteering at ReFresh to fulfill the 100 community service hours required for a class at John Burroughs School. It made a lasting impact on her. This summer, she transitioned into a seasonal staff member role. In the fall, she will return to Butler University where she is pursuing a degree in Education. “I love kids. Working at ReFresh is perfect because the proceeds from the store helps kids in foster care, and I get to personally interact with them as they shop,” she said.
The Cinderella Project
One of the most popular volunteer opportunities at ReFresh is the Cinderella Project. Throughout the year, thousands of formal gowns of all colors, styles, and sizes are donated to ReFresh. Students, boutiques, families, and businesses host dress drives and then deliver them to the store. Young ladies who are in foster care or simply cannot afford one are invited to come and find their perfect gown, to ensure they do not miss out on the prom of their dreams. Volunteers help sort and organize the inventory. When the young ladies come in to find a dress, they are paired with a volunteer “fairy godmother” who helps them find the right dress and accessories. If the dress doesn’t quite fit, volunteer seamstresses are on hand to make the necessary alterations. It is a magical experience for all, and the smiles on the young ladies’ faces when they leave is the ultimate reward for volunteers.
Need some inspiration? Meet Legacy Jackson … she is 9 years old, and decided she wanted to be a part of The Cinderella Project. Legacy hosted a dress drive, and collected dozens of beautiful gowns for our young ladies. Thank you, Legacy!
Beloved by the community
What started out as a clothing closet for children in need has blossomed into a high-impact, top-quality boutique that now brings in more than $200,000 a year to support The Coalition’s mission. It is no longer Brentwood’s best kept secret. For two years in a row, ReFresh has been voted by the community to be one of the best clothing resale stores for St. Louis Magazine’s “A-List.”
Support ReFresh today
To stay in the loop about all of ReFresh’s events and sales, follow them on Facebook and Instagram. If you or your company is interested in volunteering for ReFresh, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 314-881-0331.
*Name was changed to protect child’s privacy.