Category Archives: Clothing Bank

Our School Uniform Program

The Friendship House Clothing Bank School Uniform Program is gearing up for its 4th consecutive year of distributing free, good-quality polo shirts and khaki uniform pants to public schools in Delaware. With support from the Laffey-McHugh Foundation, we piloted this program in 2020 with 1 school and provided 400 uniform items to support 75 students. Last fall, we gave 8,500 uniform items across 15 public schools to support 3,500 students! It was a record-breaking year as we doubled our reach from 2021. We were able to do this with the generosity and support of our community. Thank you for ensuring students are equipped with necessary clothing to show up to school ready to learn!

Several public schools in Delaware require students to wear a solid-color polo shirt with khaki or navy blue uniform pants to create equality and a dress code standard for all students. However, many families find it difficult to afford a special set of clothing for their children to attend school. Students not in uniform can face in-school consequences such as missing class, standing out from their peers, or even possibly being sent home which can put them at a disadvantage. This is why FH believes it is important every child has proper clothing for their school ensuring they are set up for success.

FH partners directly with the school by providing the school with items that fit their dress code. We work with principals, school administrators, or school counselors to assess the needs of their students. While we’re not able to provide a school uniform for every student, we ensure uniform items are available to families in the most need. Latoya Irving, Richardson Park Elementary School Counselor, share’s what this means to the many families she works with. “It means a lot for our families, especially being a Title 1 school, where we have so many families in need who can’t afford ongoing expenses such as food let alone uniform requirements. It’s so helpful that kids are given clean uniforms that they can wear daily to school.” We have provided school uniform items to Richardson Park Elementary since the fall of 2021.

We can’t do this alone. This fall, we’re hoping to collect and distribute 10,000 uniform items and we need your help! We are looking to collect new or gently used solid-color polo shirts and khaki or navy blue uniform pants of all sizes (youth and adult).

If you don’t have uniform items to donate, click here for our registries!

French Toast Partnership

French Toast is a clothing manufacturing company that provides schoolwear for ALL kids and ALL families from ALL walks of life. We are so grateful for our continued partnership with French Toast. Last year, French Toast provided thousands of polo shirts and khaki uniform pants for us to distribute to our community. In addition, they have sponsored a program with GiveBackBox where families across the country can send us their unused school uniform items free of charge. Their shared passion for low-income families to have access to school uniforms makes them a wonderful partner for us and has brought national recognition to our program because of this partnership.

To further their partnership with us, they have created an online Friendship House store for our community to purchase our needed uniform items and ship them directly to us. Please click here for purchasing instructions for French Toast!

Molly’s Story

Molly, 26 years old, is currently in our Clothing Bank Creating Excellent Outcomes (CEO) Job Training Program. She is a Delaware native, raised in Wilmington, and in her early teens began mixing with “the wrong crowd.” She spent most of her adolescent years in and out of juvenile detention centers, with her first charge at 13 for robbery, until she turned 18 when she became an adult. At this time she was put on probation as she had aged out of the juvenile system. She was first charged as an adult at 19 and spent 3 years in prison on a drug possession charge. When she was released, she was quickly incarcerated again for another drug possession charge.

As an adult she wanted to be independent and have her own money so she turned to selling drugs. She mentioned how she was addicted to the money she was earning. In 2021, she was charged with violating probation which led her to spend another 2 years in prison. As Molly reflected on her youth she said, “Every time I went to jail I said to myself ‘how did this keep happening to me? Why does this keep happening to me? What am I doing wrong?’ But I got something out of it every time. I learned something new, whether it was about myself or about the learning process.”

The last time she was incarcerated she realized she was seeing the same thing happen over and over to her. It was the same officers, the same food, and the same rules. Molly said, “In my mind I’m like, ‘I’m getting too old for this.’ I kept doing the same thing and would get the same outcome. I said to myself, ‘Molly you got to get it together. If not I’m either going to die or be serving life or end up in the ICU the way that I’m going. I’m 26 and have spent my whole life in jail.’”

When Molly came to our Clothing Bank through Work Release, a program from Hazel D. Plant Women’s Treatment Facility, she realized she had so much to learn and experience. “I never got to live. I never learned about credit, about bills, none of that. Still to this day I am learning new stuff and learning what’s out there,” Molly added. Through our CEO Job Training Program, we have helped Molly realize she deserves more. Molly spoke to this saying, “I want more for myself. I want to know what else is out there. When somebody’s talking I listen more than I talk. I take heed to what they’re saying. I don’t try to turn down information. I want to retain it.”

Molly has learned a lot while she has been with us and we can see how she is growing with the impact our program has had on her. Specifically she spoke about how Cheryl, the Clothing Bank Director, has had a positive influence on her. “Ms. Cheryl keeps me motivated. She is just a great woman overall. I appreciate her because little does she know, she really saved me from a lot,” she said. The volunteers that come through have also had a significant impact on Molly. Getting to speak with different people every day and hear their perspectives, she has been able to learn from all of them and enjoys getting to know each volunteer who comes through.

She is still working on herself as she continues her journey, and we are there with her every step of the way. She aspires to eventually become a motivational speaker to talk to youth about substance abuse and domestic violence and help them avoid the paths she had taken. When asked what advice she has for them, she said, “I would tell them life is too short, live for you. Live your life to the fullest.” Her next steps include continuing in the CEO Job Training program to continue growing and learning. She is also starting school again in the fall to complete her GED. She hopes to be able to get into real estate and eventually have her own house and car. “More so I am getting it together, day by day, you gotta crawl before you can walk. I’m pacing myself, taking my time, I’m soaking up all the wisdom FH is giving me. For me this is a learning experience. I really came a long way,” she said.

Our Big Announcement

Last year, we gave clothing to over 5,900 people, supported over 3,500 students with school uniform items, and employed 15 women through our Creating Excellent Outcomes (CEO) job and life-skills training program. We did this with the help of over 400 volunteers. It was an amazing year and what this has taught us is we have reached our capacity while requests for our services are increasing.
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We are so excited to share that we have purchased the warehouse unit next door to our Clothing Bank! Our Clothing Bank now has doubled in size. We will be able to serve more people, host more volunteers, and hire more women who are justice involved.
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We invite you to visit our new space! Stop by to say hi, volunteer with us, or drop off new or gently used clothing donations. 
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If you’re interested in financially supporting the new space, please consider a donation today. To make a donation, please visit us online at friendshiphousede.org. We’re so grateful for your support in helping Delawareans find a way home!

Diamond’s Story

Diamond came to our Clothing Bank Creating Excellent Outcomes (CEO) Training Program from Hazel D. Plant Women’s Treatment Facility’s Work Release Program in May of 2022. At 40 years of age, she has been incarcerated for more than half of her adult life. Most recently she has completed a 10-year sentence. When she started at the Clothing Bank, she expressed a desire to make a change in her life and not repeat her past mistakes. She has set goals of obtaining a full-time position and renting a place of her own. She has proven to be a hard worker, greeting everyone with a smile, and has shown a lot of potential. As we counted down the days until her release from incarceration in June, we braced ourselves for the hardship we knew she was about to face as many women before Diamond have experienced.

The four weeks since Diamond’s release have been filled with challenges. Her only option right now is to live with her family in an apartment in Wilmington, the same area that exposed her to the people, places, and things that started her cycle of incarceration. She wants to save money to get a place of her own, but right now she works two jobs simply to pay her share of the rent. She works at the Clothing Bank during the day, and at a fast-food restaurant most evenings. Diamond also has to attend Probation, TASC, and After-Care appointments. These obligations are scheduled on two different days, in three different places weekly.

After 10 years of incarceration, Diamond is learning how to use a cell phone and ‘simple’ things like setting an alarm and figuring out the bus schedule. Our staff are assisting her with applying for food stamps and Medicaid, finding a primary care doctor, and arranging mental health services. For the past 10 years, these resources were provided through her sentence. When she was released from incarceration she was given a supply of medication to address her long-term mental health condition which unfortunately ran out before she could get approved for Medicaid. She was not able to get an appointment with a primary care doctor for a month. “I was stuck in a situation where I couldn’t get my mental health meds, so I eventually fell into a depression”, she says. After a week without medication, Diamond ended up in the E.R. This eventually led to admission to a mental health crisis center. She was stabilized after a few days and returned to work.

Diamond’s physical, mental, and financial well-being have all suffered. Despite her best attempts, she keeps missing days from work at the Clothing Bank. Diamond says, “The Clothing Bank staff are very patient with me and my situation. If I worked somewhere else, I probably would be fired. It’s been a rough road for me to be successful after incarceration.” She is trying very hard to keep a positive outlook, however, it’s clear she is overwhelmed and exhausted.

Diamond’s story is not unusual. The details vary from woman to woman, but the general theme remains the same: without a loving, supportive community and a stable place to live, women released from incarceration with goals and dreams to turn over a new leaf too often struggle with the re-entry process. Their past, home life, and financial barriers make this change feel impossible and their hope and drive are quickly lost.

FH is committed to filling the gaps for women like Diamond. To learn more about our plan to provide programming and additional housing for women like Diamond, please read about our New Housing Program highlight.