Coming soon to a high school near you, a little shop on wheels will feature new clothes donated by local clothing stores. And it will all be free for nominated students in need.
Dubbed “The Hanger,” the new nonprofit is the brainchild of Hannah Grant, a bank loan officer and Jiu Jitsu gym owner, after hearing stories of a Hoboken teenager crying when he was given a new toothbrush and students who were bullied because of their appearance.
“I have a real weakness for children who don’t have basic needs. It breaks my heart,” the 10-year-old former Blackshear resident recently explained. “I hate to see a situation where someone is being bullied for something they don’t have. It’s not their fault and most of the time it’s not the fault of the parents either. These are difficult times in which we live.”
The idea of providing some sort of unique shopping experience for struggling middle and high school students that didn’t involve used clothes struck her a year ago after helping gather more necessities for this grateful girl from Hoboken with the co-owner of his Brazilian Invictus Jiu Jitsu. & Defensive Arts Gym in Hoboken.
She consulted her good friend Brittany Weathersby, owner of Fifth & Timber Apparel Co. in Blackshear, to get her thoughts on having a mobile store full of the latest new clothes where young girls and guys could choose their own outfits. and not pay a tithe.
Weathersby was convinced her friend could pull it off.
“Hannah is definitely the right woman for the job,” the mother-of-three said. “His heart is on fire for these young people. She’s the most selfless woman I know. Simply amazing!”
The project ended up being put on the back burner for a while, however, after Grant’s father, Lenny Abbott, was diagnosed with brain cancer in late 2020 and she later found out that her mother had the same cancer.
“It’s been a crazy year,” Grant said with a sigh.
It wasn’t until her 10-year-old daughter, Kayden, started coming home from school with stories of classmates from Hoboken Elementary wearing the same clothes day after day that she was inspired again.
“Kayden is the reason I went ahead and said, ‘Let’s see if we can get this thing going. Literally,” she said with a laugh.
In the space of just about two months, Grant was successful—mostly during his lunch breaks at First Southern Bank—assembling a board of directors, filing for 501c3 nonprofit status with the IRS, set sponsorship levels, buy an 8.5-by-14-foot trailer with an anonymous $4,000 boost and get about $30,000 worth of new clothes donated from many boutiques in Blackshear, Waycross and as far as Nahunta and Brunswick.
She also has over 500 followers on The Hanger Facebook page and more overall community support than she ever imagined possible.
“The response I’ve received in terms of moral support and cash and in-kind donations in such a short time has been truly miraculous,” said Grant, who moved to Blackshear for the first time from Jacksonville at the age of 17 when his stepfather got a job here.
Her three-person board of directors for The Hanger consists of herself, businesswoman Offerman Emily Hadaway and Waycross-Ware County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Paige Taylor. She said she specifically chose Hadaway and Taylor for their generous hearts and can-do attitude.
Hadaway, owner of deli and catering business The Fresh Fig, said she was thrilled to hear about Grant’s idea for the traveling shop and can’t wait to get started with both feet.
“As a parent, I can’t imagine not being able to provide for my child and I get emotional when I think of all the families struggling to make ends meet right now,” said Hadaway, her voice breaking as she held back tears.
Hadaway said she can’t wait for The Hanger to launch and visits high schools in Pierce, Brantley and Ware counties at least once a month.
Grant hopes to start taking The Hanger to schools by March, likely starting with middle and high schools in Pierce.
Grant envisions school staff nominating students for The Hanger and would like there to be some sort of “pain meter” that will prioritize those most in immediate need of clothing and other necessities.
She would also like student privacy to be a top priority and therefore plans to ensure the trailer is parked in a private area away from student traffic and prying eyes. Every student will have the chance to shop on their own and photographs of students shopping will never be allowed, she said.
“I would even like the counselors to store their shopping bags in their office until they can pick them up after school so that the children do not have to worry about the reactions of other students,” said explained Grant. “I don’t want it to look like charity at all.”
Grant said she felt it was important not only to meet a basic need for these teens and teens, but also to teach them how to dress for the future and be mindful of managing the money.
She plans to incorporate some kind of “monopoly money” or tap into Pierce County’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program so that students also learn self-discipline and self-respect.
She calls it “Addressing the Future” and thinks it’s something she learned from her father, who not only has a generous heart but is a successful entrepreneur and consultant who believes in “achieving great things”.
Kayden, a 5th grade student, makes soap and bracelets for The Hanger with kits she received as Christmas presents. She said she was thrilled that local students finally had some nice clothes to wear and was happy to help her mum and dad, Morris Grant, sort through the many plastic bags and bins full of clothes that have arrived so far.
Grant said if it weren’t for the inspiration of her father and daughter and the generosity of local business owners like Fifth & Timber, 84 West, Finley J’s Salon & Boutique, Bennett’s Pharmacy & Boutique, Cotton & Wood and Rumor Has It, she would never be able to pull it off.
The Hanger’s mission statement is “to empower underprivileged youth in our community by providing confidence, character, and peer inclusion.”
“Who knows what it will look like in two, three or five years, but I see it going beyond clothes and the ability to help some children with a variety of needs that will make them look and feel good and thus doing good,” she said. “Sky is the limit!”
Grant said there will be a fashion show to benefit The Hanger at Blackshear City Park on March 24 at 6 p.m. Tickets at $15 each or $150 per table of eight can be purchased through him at [email protected] or 912-281-8446.
Those wishing to donate new clothes or donate money can also contact her. She currently needs boys clothes.