Wildfires in California resulted in enormous damage this year, including one that destroyed the town of Paradise, Calif.. It is now that state’s most deadly and destructive fire.
After an entire city burns down and everything comes to a stop, people eventually must restart their daily lives and do their best to recover from personal loss. Part of the return to normalcy includes going back to work — but what if all your work clothes were destroyed in a fire?
That’s a problem that several women’s boutique clothing stores are working together to solve, including Collections Boutique in downtown Coupeville.
“They literally lost everything, but they still had jobs to go to,” Cheryl Nunn, Collections Boutique owner, said. “They still had a professional life to attempt to recover, but they had no clothes to go to work in.”
One example she heard about was a group of women who worked in a bank, which requires formal attire, “and they had nothing to wear to their bank jobs,” Nunn said.
She was contacted online by a clothing representative of lines that she carries who told her about a boutique owner from Paradise named Dove Detches. Detches was putting out a plea for people to donate unused, new upscale clothes to donate to women who had lost clothing in the fire.
Nunn received the Facebook message from her rep, and it tugged at her heartstrings.
“When I read it, my immediate reaction was ‘I’m in,’” she said.
She had read about how badly communities in California were impacted, including how residents were forced to live in tents on pallets in Walmart parking lots.
“It was a deep deep devastation,” she said.
Two weeks, six boxes and 120 pounds later, she gathered enough clothing to mail her first shipment to Chico, Calif., where Detches is re-opening her boutique store in the local mall, revamped with donated clothes to give for free to women in need from the Paradise area.
Detches, who owns Dove’s Gypsy Heart Boutique, said the work has been going very well. She suffered her own losses in the fire.
“My house burned down, as well as my daughters,” she said.
“We drove out with just the shirts on our back, flames licking the car,” Detches said. She had only had time to grab a few important documents.
Even small gestures can mean an enormous amount in the aftermath of such a trying time. The kindness of her community has really helped, she said, such as her hairdresser who offered a free haircut.
It’s little things like that that mean so much, she said. She noted that the Chico Mall donated the space for her to re-open her Boutique.
It’s been a real team effort, Detches said.
Nunn estimates the retail value of her donation was about $6,000. It included many items tailored toward the winter months, including jackets, sweaters and pants. She’s already getting ready for her next shipment, which will include more summery items for warmer weather.
Donating the items was a win-win, she said, even though its not tax deductible. All retail stores have items that they have trouble selling, even after discounts, and then it just goes into storage, she said.
“I’m a small store, so I don’t really have the ability to do a good job of that,” she said. “This allows me to purge and know it’s going for good cause. And it just feels like the right thing to do.”
She’s received some donations from customers as well who overheard what she’s doing. She welcomes others to contact her at the store if they are interested in donating unused, high-quality women’s clothing items.
The communities in California have received many clothes already, aimed at all ages and genders, she said. “People are sending tons of used stuff that you can pick up at the thrift store, but this particular cause was really looking for new apparel that could go to professional women who still needed to go to work…this was really specific within my industry.”
The feedback she’s gotten from people supporting her cause has been great, she said.
“It’s pretty incredible. People truly have a big heart,” she said.