It’s nearly back to school shopping season, and I am remembering how it felt to go with my mom to get new clothes for school.We’d drive to a nearby mall and cruise the aisles of various stores, trying on shoes, assorted pants and jumpers.(My mom did not allow jeans until high school!)Some of you probably have similar memories of shopping for new back to school clothes, or maybe more recent ones of finding the perfect new suit for a job interview or trying on dresses for a special event.
While we can all acknowledge the confidence and pleasure we get from a new outfit, new clothes are usually a luxury for most Maggie’s Place moms.Enter Laura Ploenzke and her new Cleveland non-profit Fashion Forward, which works with major department stores like Sears and JC Penny to secure new clothing for individuals in need or who are actively seeking employment.Fashion Forward grew out of Laura’s efforts to help her mother locate inexpensive clothing for children served by a North Carolina charitable organization.  After securing an abundance of children’s items, she then enlarged her vision to secure adult clothing for other agencies including Redeemer Crisis Center and Lakeside Emergency Shelter, both in Northeast Ohio.  While delivering donations to these locations, she experienced first-hand the deep gratitude of the residents, many of whom explained they never had the benefit of new clothes.
This expression of gratitude encouraged Laura to find additional like-minded organizations.She came across an article about Maggie’s Place in Mimi Vanderhaven, a monthly magazine and online community dedicated to preserving business diversity in Northeast Ohio by finding and spotlighting quality locally owned businesses and non-profits.She then contacted The Zechariah House, asking what was needed most and offering to donate new clothes to our moms in residence. Ploenzke toured the house in July, sharing her personal story and soon afterwards, bestowed The Zechariah House with an abundant assortment of new women’s clothing in various sizes, most suitable for job interviews.These included dressier slacks, blouses, sweaters and accessories.  
It has been a treat for the Zechariah House staff to make room for these new items in our closets. As clothing was sorted and put away, we reflected on the way God inspires new people to help and pictured a Maggie’s Place mom acing her school or job interview in one of these beautiful new outfits.We are certain our moms will feel blessed to know someone believes in them and desires to help them to look great during their job search.The confidence that comes from new clothes may not be something that can be concretely measured, but with the help of Fashion Forward, Zechariah House moms are taking a more assured step toward their new lives.
Submitted by Tricia Kuivinen
The Zechariah House