Delivering Dignity

Montel Williams was a powerful guest host at last night’s Dignity U Wear fundraising event at Brooks Brothers, virtually moving the crowd to tears with his story. Returning from several years in active duty overseas, he had saved up what money he could find to buy some decent clothes for job interviews. While interviewing (for a job he didn’t get), he realized he was competing with guys in nice suits and ties and felt, whether true or not, that he could never succeed without the right clothes. Today, Williams is totally devoted to the Suits for Soldiers initiative, cooks and serves meals at Fisher House (homes for veterans and their families at military medical facilities) and is going back to Afghanistan to visit the troops this Thanksgiving. (He invited the well-dressed audience to join him there, and suggested they each come up with a personal donation to Dignity U Wear of at least the price of the suit they’re wearing.)

The stigma of wearing old ill-fitting clothes (or none at all) was what prompted Holocaust survivor Henri Landwirth to found this wonderful organization in 2000. Since then, Dignity has donated 6.6 million pieces of brand new clothing valued at $125 million to 500,000 men, women and children throughout the U.S. They do this through a network of 350 non-profit social service agencies at a management cost of under 5 percent. Says Landwirth, who spent five years in concentration camps and was homeless when he got out at age 18, “I know what it means to be stripped of personal dignity, to not have clothes of one’s own and to give up all hope.”

Last night’s event was sponsored by Brooks Brothers (who just contributed $1 million worth of suits to the Suits for Soldiers initiative; 2.4 million have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11!) and Maidenform; other Dignity U Wear partners include PVH, Fishman & Tobin, Destination Maternity, Cato, Child Apparel Net, Men’s Wearhouse and Steinmart.

You too can provide dignity to men, women and children in need by donating excess inventory, samples, IRs, cancelled and seasonal goods, etc. There are 46.9 million people living below the poverty line in America, and 2,660 children born into poverty every day. For more information, contact Dignity U Wear executive director Barbara Truncellito at btruncellito@dignityuwear.org or go to DignityUWear.org.

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