There are many ways to support youth in crisis, such as donating items or volunteering your time. Cathy Hamilton has taken her dedication to helping vulnerable youth to the next level.
Hamilton founded and runs a unique nonprofit dedicated to creating an experience for youth who are in foster care, experiencing homelessness or have aged out of care. Founded in 2016, San Antonio Threads gives youth ages 12-21 the opportunity to shop for entirely new outfits, shoes and toiletries that fit their sizes and preferences – an experience that many of us take for granted, but that too many of these youth miss out on – free of cost.
Hamilton, once a CASA volunteer herself, knows from experience that when kids are placed in foster care they often come in old, dirty clothes that carry bad memories. Writing new memories begins when children walk into her store. She is not just handing out donated clothes to these children. From full racks of new and properly-sized clothes to volunteer stylists helping youth find outfits that fit their preferred look, San Antonio Threads is providing youth with a break from their troubles and an opportunity to express themselves and feel like they have the same opportunities as any other kid.
“I’ve had kids while they’re shopping look at me and say, ‘You know what? For just a minute I forgot I was in foster care and I was just shopping with my friend,’” Hamilton said.
The first time a teen enters San Antonio Threads can be a telling encounter. Hamilton recalled an experience she had with one youth who came in saying, “Ms., I don’t think I can shop here.” She proceeded to pull out the few dollars she had in her pocket. When it was explained that all of this was provided for free, it was a bit of a shock to her.
Time and time again, the children Hamilton encounters think they are not worthy or unable to receive what she offers to them.
“The kids I meet are so used to receiving second-hand and used donations that when they get something brand new and just for them it can be a shock,” she said.
With an astonishing amount of community support, San Antonio Threads has been able to serve an ever-growing number of youth. Through partnerships with emergency shelters, CASA, Child Protective Services (CPS) and local school districts, Threads directly reaches youth who need their services.
“Once groups in the area started to hear about us and what we were doing, they all wanted to be a part of it,” Hamilton said.
Just like the experience it provides, San Antonio Threads’ impact goes above and beyond. When youth wear their new clothes, it can help them regain confidence that is often lost due to their past life experiences. Their new clothes can impact every facet of their life – improving their attitude at school, how they are perceived by their peers and their sense of self.
San Antonio Threads has helped youth from all over the San Antonio region, reaching as far as San Angelo, Texas; and Hamilton is looking to push that impact area even farther. With plans cemented to open a store in Austin in December 2019, a whole new community of youth will soon be able to have a shopping experience like no other. Additionally, preliminary planning has begun for the opening of a Houston-area location.
In just three short years, Hamilton has started a movement raising charity to a level above what is traditionally thought of. By crafting a full experience, Hamilton is creating a space where those who enter can forget about what brought them there and begin anew.