Garage of Blessings founder Kristiina Miller and her daughter Chloe Miller stand surrounded by recently donated purses and clothing. The items will be given away at a special event on Jan. 19. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Garage of Blessings founder Kristiina Miller and her daughter Chloe Miller stand surrounded by recently donated purses and clothing. The items will be given away at a special event on Jan. 19. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Clothing event for those with challenges

Nonprofit giving brand-name clothes to those with special needs

As Garage of Blessings founder Kristiina Miller helped dress her 19-year-old daughter one day, she was struck with an idea for what to do with a recent large donation to the nonprofit.

Her daughter, Chloe Miller, has mild cerebral palsy that affects her fine and gross motor skills, meaning navigating zippers or buttons can be difficult. Miller’s free thrift shop had just received about $5,000 worth of new clothing from a former LulaRoe retailer in Oak Harbor. All of the pieces are stretchy and easy to put on; she noticed the donated clothes bore similarities to the kinds of clothing Miller usually buys for her daughter.

“I was thinking to myself, all of these clothes are easy to wear,” Miller said as she gestured toward the racks of colorful-printed clothes.

From 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Jan. 19 at the Garage of Blessings on Barrington Drive, all of the clothing will be free to individuals who have unique medical or physical needs that can make dressing difficult.

LulaRoe only sells women’s and girls’ clothing, and the selection available has children’s sizes through adult 3x.

Shoppers will be able to pick through never-worn leggings, shirts, cardigans, skirts and dresses — none of which have a button or zipper. Miller has contacted groups in the area such as families in the Oak Harbor High School transitions program, which serves students with developmental disabilities.

Miller said she isn’t going to try and “judge” the severity of anyone’s disability or condition, but she wants the public to be aware the event is intended for a particular audience and hopes that the inventory will be saved for those individuals.

During the same event, Miller will also be making available a large donation of over $2,000 worth of purses from another local retailer, she said. She explained that while the handbags had nothing to do with mobility issues, she wanted the event to be special.

“How often does someone with huge medical bills get to come buy a $300 purse?” she asked as she held a small Coach handbag.

The number of items allowed per person will depend on how many people show up, Miller said. And because of the special needs of some patrons, she said the day will be facilitated mindfully. There will be ample space between the racks, and the rooms will be kept quiet to be sensitive toward those who can become overwhelmed by too much sensory input, she said.

Miller’s inspiration, her daughter, said she likes the donated pieces.

“They’re colorful,” Chloe Miller said. “I can probably fit into some of them.”

LulaRoe is a multi-level marketing company that sells women’s clothing. The inventory is sent to local retailers who can work at home and often sell the pieces online through social media.

It’s known for its loose fitting, comfortable clothing with loud prints.

The company, which at one point hit $2.3 billion in sales, came under scrutiny within the last two years after several former retailers filed lawsuits claiming it was a pyramid scheme, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Thousands of retailers left the company and many were unable to sell their leftover inventory, Bloomberg reported. Miller said she’s vaguely aware of the news around it, and said her donation came from someone who left LulaRoe for family reasons that are unrelated.

The woman who donated the clothes said she has another batch of just as many pieces of clothing that she’ll bring in later this year, so Miller plans to do a similar event again in the spring.

She encourages other home retailers who have leftover inventory to also make donations.

“Anybody can do this,” Miller said, pointing to the clothing rack and pile of purses. “When we get special donations like this, it gives us an opportunity to make a special event.”

• The clothes and purses will be given away 10 a.m.-12 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 19, at 800 S.E. Barrington Drive, Oak Harbor.

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