CHICAGO, July 6, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- High school may be the most important fashion runway in a teenager's life, but when you're homeless or in foster care, owning a confidence-inspiring wardrobe is difficult.
Sixteen-year old twin sisters Amy and Amber Haskill know this well because they grew up in foster care until they were adopted by the Haskill family. The pain of that experience led them and their brothers, 17-year-old Logan Haskill and 15-year-old Liam Haskill, to start QC Closet2Closet (Closet2Closet), a nonprofit dedicated to dressing homeless and foster-care youth.
"My sister and I moved around a lot as foster kids and we often didn't have time to pack up our stuff," said Amber Haskill. "It made me feel abandoned. I lacked confidence and felt I wasn't worth the belongings I had."
For their impact on young lives, compassion for others and creativity, Closet2Closet was recently announced the winner of a $10,000 grant presented at The Allstate Foundation Good Starts YoungSM Rally held in Chicago. The rally was hosted by The Allstate Foundation and Peace First, an international nonprofit that prepares young people for leadership by providing them with the skills to solve community problems through courage, compassion and collaboration.
The rally was part of The Allstate Foundation's Good Starts Young initiative, which aims to increase academic performance, improve college and workplace readiness and empower youth to make meaningful contributions to society.
Joining Closet2Closet at the rally were nine other finalist teams who work on issues such as bullying, religious intolerance and violence in their communities. The nine teams each received a $2,000 grant made possible by The Allstate Foundation to further their ideas back home. All 10 teams were selected from a pool of nearly 300 applicants from around the country to compete for the $10,000 grant.
Since its founding in 2014, Closet2Closet has provided clothing to more than 1,000 teens across the Quad Cities area on the Illinois-Iowa border. When the Haskills realized many teenagers couldn't travel to their quarterly clothing expos, they started a care package program.
A Closet2Closet care package is a personalized styling approach. Teens fill out a form detailing their clothing needs, favorite colors and sizes. The nonprofit then provides 30 items of clothing or five outfits, plus underwear and toiletries. In the last two years, the organization has delivered 2,000 care packages with the help of more than 200 volunteers.
"Appearance matters – it shows your personality," said Amber Haskill. "When you don't have the right clothes or you're wearing really old clothes, it has an effect on how you feel about yourself."
During the three-day Good Starts Young Rally, the 10 finalist teams partnered with mentors to refine their ideas and prepare their business cases. On the third day, the groups presented their ideas to a panel of judges who scored them based on societal impact, compassionate outreach, courage and degree of collaboration with others.
"The rally was a great experience and I walked away with new skills," said Logan Haskill. "It was really cool to sit down with mentors. I learned about collaboration, got other people's perspectives on our work, and practiced public speaking."
Closet2Closet plans to use the $10,000 grant to secure a permanent building for the nonprofit. A permanent location will enable the nonprofit to serve more youth.
"Young people have the passion and vision to make a positive difference in society, and as adults, we need to listen to them and encourage them to keep reaching for the stars," said Vicky Dinges, Allstate's senior vice president of corporate responsibility. "Forums like the Good Starts Young Rally provide a valuable opportunity for young people to express themselves, collaborate with others and build up their confidence – important life skills they can carry forward. That's why The Allstate Foundation is proud to support this effort. We are committed to empowering youth to step up as leaders in their communities and realize their full potential."
"Young people are powerful peacemakers, with ideas on how to solve our most pressing problems, right now," said Eric Dawson, CEO and co-founder of Peace First. "The most important four words an adult can say to a young person is, 'how can I help? The entire experience of the Good Starts Young Rally was inspiring and amazing. All 10 of these youth teams are dedicated to making a difference and that was evident through their demonstrated courage, compassion and collaboration. "
To learn more about Closet2Closet's winning project, as well as all the finalist teams' creative solutions to social injustices, visit www.goodstartsyoungrally.com.
About The Allstate Foundation Established in 1952, The Allstate Foundation is an independent, charitable organization made possible by subsidiaries of The Allstate Corporation (NYSE: ALL). Through partnerships with nonprofit organizations across the country, The Allstate Foundation brings the relationships, reputation and resources of Allstate to support innovative and lasting solutions that enhance people's well-being and prosperity. With a focus on building financial independence for domestic violence survivors, empowering youth and celebrating the charitable community involvement of Allstate agency owners and employees, The Allstate Foundation works to bring out the good in people's lives. To learn more about Good Starts Young, visit www.allstatefoundation.org/goodstartsyoung.
About Peace First Peace First, is a nonprofit (501(c)(3)) public benefit corporation founded with a belief in the power of all young people to change the world for the better through peacemaking — not someday in the future — right now. For 25 years, Peace First has prepared young people with the skills and commitments to solve community problems by connecting across lines of difference with compassion, standing up for ideals and others with courage, and creating collaborative change by leading with others. Peace First's work supports young people in all 50 states in the United Stated of America and in over 90 countries around the world. For more information, visit www.peacefirst.org.