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Fashionable Clothes Given to Locals in Need 

Dignity U Wear, a Florida-based charity that collects unsold garments from stores, and national retailer Stein Mart have organized an effort to begin regular shipments of new, stylish clothing to families living at the Villa's shelter and transitional Flagler Home.

Richmond is one of five sites chosen nationwide for the pilot. The Villa was picked to test it because it's large, serving 500 children and families each day, and offers a range of services. Families will be able to submit detailed requests monthly to the nonprofit's warehouse.

Having new clothes may sound like a small thing, but it matters when fitting in at school or searching for a job, says Leisha LaRiviere, a Stein Mart consultant who started the program in Richmond. "If you don't have the right clothes in this day and age," she says, "unfortunately, you're out the door before you begin."

The program will be extended to all nonprofit agencies in the Richmond area once her corporate office approves it, LaRiviere says. LaRiviere hopes the program will then gain more recognition and more donors.

The Villa received its second shipment of clothing in November. Many families asked for cold-weather clothes, says Rachel Mertz, Villa spokeswoman. Typically Dignity U Wear can fill 80 to 85 percent of requests. The Villa pays the shipping fees, for which Stein Mart obtains a reduced rate.

"It's the easiest process," Mertz says. "We got box after box after box."—
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