People in Connecticut are donating carloads of clothes to The BEST Chance Program in Hartford to help people who were formerly incarcerated get back on their feet.
Matthew Banever, the director of consumer sales for Bards Clothing, came up with the idea of donating clothing to the program.
“I’ve always heard the same response from customers who say, 'I’ve got clothes in my closet that I don’t ever wear. I’ve got suits I never put on,'” said Banever.
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Banever said it only intensified when the COVID pandemic began and many people started working remotely from home. So, he thought, why not put the clothes to good use and that’s when he found out about the BEST Chance program.
“Being able to get the clothing from point A to point B with no middleman, no profit, no external factors, just your clothing doing good work for people,” said Banever.
Banever was shocked at the response he received.
“The clothing donations a year ago were, 'Here’s a couple shirts, here’s a couple this,' now people are telling me, 'Make sure you come with your car empty,” Banever said.
The BEST Chance Program was created in 2015 under then Gov. Dannel Malloy’s second chance initiative. The goal is to help people transition back into their communities after being released. The program provides pre-employment preparation and job training in construction, manufacturing and culinary arts.
“Right now, we’re working with people who have been in jail between 12 to 20 years. So that’s the other thing, when somebody comes like that into society and back into society, the world has changed so much that now they have to adjust to that new world,” said Yolanda Rivera, the director of construction sector initiatives.
Rivera said the clothing donations that have been pouring in are a huge help.
“Those are the types of donations that really make the difference because even though we are funded by the state of Connecticut and the Hartford Foundation, some of the grants really do not allow for those things to happen,” said Rivera.
Gwendolyn Chambers, one of the people who was formerly incarcerated, is taking manufacturing courses.
“It’s my past and I’m here now and I know I have a good future for myself and I try to be an example for my son,” said Chambers.
If you would like to donate clothes to The BEST Chance Program you can contact Matthew here.