Nonprofit allows foster, trafficked youths to receive new clothes after they are pulled from crisis situations

SAN ANTONIO – Walking into the San Antonio Threads shop, you feel like you’re in a nice clothing store. There’s a room with new shoes stacked to the ceiling, racks of clothes and many brand names with tags still on. There’s also a wall of hats, belts, hair accessories, perfumes and nail polish.

But the items are not for sale. The shoppers in the building don’t pay a dime for the items they pick out.

Those shoppers are at-risk, foster, trafficked or homeless youth.

Many of them show up to San Antonio Threads right after being pulled from their home or rescued from a trafficking situation.

San Antonio Threads CEO and founder Cathy Hamilton spent years working as a CASA volunteer, advocating for abused or neglected children.

“Every case I had, kids were wearing tattered shoes. They didn’t have a jacket. I said, ‘Somebody should do something about that.’ And then, at the age of 51, it was me,” Hamilton said.

Some of the people who shop at SA Threads are from programs like SA Youth.

“It’s a program to help us 16 to 24 graduate high school because I did drop out of high school,” said Jasmin Hernandez.

Hernandez was a teen mom, and now, as a single mom, she just graduated from the SA Youth program in January.

She needed interview and work clothing so she could feel confident at work or when applying for a new job.

“I wouldn’t be able to afford clothes this nice,” Hernandez said, browsing the racks. “These shoes and socks are so nice. This lotion is from Victoria’s Secret. This perfume is Kim Kardashian.”

When she walked into the shop, she was stunned at all the choices she had.

“I’m really thankful that they give us a lot. Not just like clothes — they give us underwear, they give us socks, they give us bras. Hygiene products too. Those are expensive,” Hernandez said.

There is also a mental health room in the back. Kids and young adults can pick up some resources for mental health or housing.

There are pages of recipes in case they want to learn how to cook. There are coloring books, journals and even yoga mats.

“Give them the confidence that they can get that job, go to school, feel good about themselves,” Hamilton said.

Over the years, she’s seen youth in so much pain.

“Yesterday, we had a CPS caseworker bring in a girl that was just removed from her home, and she was still wearing a blanket,” Hamilton said.

Some of the most heartbreaking cases involve trafficking survivors, Hamilton said.

“She was still wearing the clothing that she was rescued in, so it was extremely inappropriate, and I could tell she was uncomfortable. We immediately grabbed leggings and a T-shirt. She changed and threw away her other clothing,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton asks each shopper to write a note about what the clothes mean to them.

“Her note said, ‘Today, I don’t have to dress like a prostitute,’” Hamilton said through tears.

But not all the notes are heartbreaking. Hamilton keeps every single note, stacks and stacks and stacks of them, all over the office.

“In eight years, we’ve served 100,000 kids. I have all of them,” Hamilton said.

She read some aloud:

One said, “It makes me feel like a new chapter opening.”

Another said, “The help for me having clothes and for my baby and me.”

Hamilton said a longer note read, “‘I get to express myself, and have a stress free time.’ So I think it says a lot where they’re not worried about how they look.”

“Sometimes they’re funny,” Hamilton chuckled. “I will never forget the girl who asked me to please find more Justin Bieber T-shirts.”

The notes, whatever they may say, reflect young people’s realization of their second chance, a constant reminder of how the seemingly smallest of things can help someone begin again.

Many youth are so affected that they keep in touch with Hamilton.

“I have a picture of a girl in the hallway that she got accepted into college, and so they share those stories with us. They come back and check with us. And that’s amazing to know that we had a small part,” Hamilton said.

On Monday, San Antonio Threads got a $1 million donation from Kym’s Angel Foundation, run by philanthropists Kym Rapier and Glenn Verette.

Hamilton said that amount of money will help keep the racks full and change the lives of thousands of more children and young adults.


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