The second full week of February is recognized as National Secondhand Wardrobe Week. The intent of this observance is dedicated to encouraging people to shop secondhand and donate, or sell, old clothing rather than throw it away. The reasons behind this initiative are to support local thrift stores while helping people reduce the estimated 92 MILLION tons of textiles that end up in landfills every year. These are worthy goals by themselves, but I’d like to encourage you to observe this week for a different reason. I’m hoping you’ll clean out your closets for National Secondhand Wardrobe Week 2023 to help support the future of skilled trades.
Why Support the Skilled Trades
The skilled trades have opportunities for everybody in America. Regardless of your skills or experience, we have a professional home just waiting for you somewhere in construction, agriculture, or manufacturing. But these careers can go hand in hand with real barriers to entry. We’re most familiar hearing about these barriers when people talk about the skills gap that exists in our worldwide workforce today. However, things much simpler than skills can often prevent a person from pursuing work in the skilled trades. Most commonly, these areas include tools, boots, or specialty clothing required for employment.
Where to Donate
There are many groups and organizations that will collect donated clothing for specific purposes like cold weather (Salvation Army Coat Drives) or job interviews (Dress for Success). These are fantastic programs that do a lot of good, but they rarely focus on, or benefit, people in and around the trades. A number of programs are operating with a focus on shoes (Soles4Souls) and other footwear, (Samaritan’s Feet) while other organizations will provide new work boots (Charitable Union) to qualified applicants. Unfortunately, none of these options put a true emphasis on used work clothing or footwear aimed at people trying to get into the trades.
How You Can Help
By now you’re saying, “This is all great to know, but how can I help support the trades with my used work boots and clothes?” I’m so glad you asked because I have a solution!
I’d like you to consider the example of Darnel Royal and Work Boot Ministry. Darnel had an opportunity to give away a pair of work boots and went to social media to make it happen. In doing so, he uncovered a huge need and a mission. In about 4 years, Royal and his colleagues have donated 567 pairs of boots to support 567 different trades careers.
You can do the same thing, and you don’t have to be a local social media influencer like Darnel! My challenge to you is simple and can be accomplished in four easy steps.
- Go through your closet and find any old clothes, boots, gloves, hats, outerwear, or specialty items that are fit for trades work (and still in good enough condition to donate).
- Do a mental inventory of your network. Who do you know that’s connected to training programs, technical schools, shelters, workforce development centers, relevant employers, etc. (Hint: if the answer is nobody, a quick Google search and a phone call or two will change that quickly!)
- Schedule a drop off and let them take things from there.
- Repeat annually.
Pro-tip: If you’re willing to put up a post on social media and handle follow-up / delivery yourself, you can cut these four steps down to three.
Make a Difference In Your Community
Here at FlexTrades, it’s our intention to make a difference every day, in every way that we can. This is reflected in every one of our core values. It’s my sincere hope that this article inspires you to try to make a difference in your own community today while making it a little easier for you to do so too.
Would you like to read about other ways we try to make a difference? Check out our blog page today! Do you have ideas on how we can help? Send them to our Writing Team, and you might be reading about your idea in our next blog article.