Rebecca Ward Started Clothe The West To Serve The West End Of Louisville, Kentucky
Rebecca Ward is a community organizer in Louisville, Kentucky, who made a choice to give back to the West End of her hometown. She started Clothe The West in an effort to rally her neighbors, friends and family to contribute to those in need. This volunteer-driven organization is celebrating their first year, and they have big plans to keep growing and giving. Listen in to hear Rebecca's story and how she stays motivated during the tough times.
Below is an edited transcript from our conversation with Rebecca.
[00:00:24] Andrew: Hey everybody. Welcome back to Stickers on the Mic. Andrew here again with you. We are in June and we are deep in one giant community. This is where StickerGiant is focusing on people who are making a big difference. Today, Rebecca Ward is joining us from Louisville, Kentucky. Rebecca came up with this amazing project calls Clothe the West. Rebecca, thank you for joining us.
[00:00:42] Rebecca Ward: Thank you for having me.
[00:00:44] Andrew: This is awesome. What is Clothe the West?
[00:00:49] Rebecca: Clothe the West is a project where we provide new essentials to children in the community. We pop up in the west end for the most part outside and we give away clothes, toiletries, shoes, whatever we have, we give it away. People don't need to sign up. People don't have to show us anything. They just show up and they can have whatever they want.
[00:01:17] Andrew: This is pretty incredible because giving is super important and giving back is even more important, especially for businesses these days. You're not necessarily a business. What exactly brought you to start this up?
[00:01:31] Rebecca: Again, I live in Louisville, Kentucky. Last summer when I started this in June 26th of 2020, it was a lot happening in Louisville. We are where Brianna Taylor was murdered by the police and it was
[00:01:51] Rebecca: There was a lot happening here and the kids weren't at school anymore because of COVID. The uprisings had happened and the city was just crazy and shaken up. In the midst of that, I wanted to serve the children because I felt like they had been forgotten. I was experiencing this thing as an adult, and it was tough. It was really tough.
[00:02:14] Andrew: It was so hard.
[00:02:15] Rebecca: COVID was really tough and trying to figure that out, wearing a mask all of the dag gone time and just trying to figure out how to homeschool a kid and just all the things that were happening. I wanted the kids to know that they hadn't been forgotten. Usually, I guess, you get new clothes to go to school and you get new clothes for picture day and all these things, but those things weren't happening. That didn't change. Kids still were growing, but parents had lost their job.
[00:02:49] Andrew: Kids grow. I've got three of them, so I get it, right?
[00:02:52] Rebecca: Yes. They do. It had shifted that parents weren't working in the same way they had been before and that kids still needed these things.
[00:03:01] Andrew: Right. You're at it almost a year now. Folks, if you're listening in here, it's Clothe like C-L-O-T-H-E the West. The West End of Louisville, but this, hopefully, Rebecca, we're going to make this a worldwide thing. You're at a year of this. When it first started, how were you getting the things to give away to kids? Then let's talk about how you grew it and then how you're engaging with your community from the perspective of an organizer because you're a community organizer, obviously. Right?
[00:03:33] Rebecca: Yes. I was already doing community organizing in the community with the whole uprising. A local org had abundance amount of new clothes that were given to them, and they were like, "Here, let's do something with those." They were given to me and within a couple of months, those clothes were gone. It was like, "Now what? Are we done or how are we going to do this?"
We just reached out to the community and we were like, "This is what we want to do, and this is how you all can support us." We created an Amazon wishlist and people gave that way. We have money apps and so people give that way. We do Facebook fundraisers every so often and people give that way. It was just--
[00:04:24] Andrew: Organic. It was natural.
[00:04:26] Rebecca: Yes.
[00:04:28] Andrew: You weren't pushing a thing. It's like, "Where are-- Cash app are fun. Venmo or whatever. Let's do this, this way."
[00:04:34] Rebecca: Yes. It was like, "Who can help? Who can help and how can you help?" Some businesses would host supply drives and they might collect toiletries and then give those to us. It was just regular folks in the community helping us serve the community.
[00:04:51] Andrew: When you built out-- The Amazon thing is very product-based, obviously, getting Venmo and cash and PayPal allows you to do as much as you can to tailor whatever it is. You have this wishlist and there's a lot of different stuff here. How are you figuring out what people need?
[00:05:11] Rebecca: Every so often, I go back through it and I see what the need is. Right now we're coming up on our one-year anniversary this Saturday. We'll host a huge community, free community event. We'll have resources. There'll be [unintelligible 00:05:25] screenings and all kinds of just stuff, HIV testing. [unintelligible 00:05:31]
[00:05:31] Andrew: That's more than just school supplies though, by the way. That's a big impact. We're talking about health and wellness, right?
[00:05:38] Rebecca: Yes. For the whole family. I want to be able to serve the whole family. Periodically, I will change the wishlist. School will be starting in August for Louisville and they will go back full time. This will be the first time they've went back full time since before COVID and so we will tailor to toiletries and socks and undershirts and underwear. Sometimes the stuff that people don't really think about, like yes you might get new uniforms, but did you get some new soap? [chuckles] That stuff is important or did you get cologne and perfume? That kind of stuff is what we'll cater to for back to school.
Periodically we change the wishlist depending on when it is and what we have going on.
[00:06:31] Andrew: Oh, it's dynamic. That's really cool. There's some really good stuff on there. I can see how you're also trying to focus on some educational stuff and even seasonal stuff for people. A year of this, what have you learned in this past year, by the way? This has been a year. It feels like it's been one thing after another. Now, some things are not any better. Some things are getting better. How have you figured out a way to keep your own head? By the way, Rebecca, thank you for doing this. It seems like a lot of work and a lot of touchpoints. There's two questions. What have you learned and how are you taking care of yourself right now because I feel like you probably are stretched thin?
[00:07:14] Rebecca: What I've learned is that people show up for people. In a different way than I believe that we have been showing up for each other in the past. That is what keeps me going. That is what drives this is that people show up. I can serve people without asking them about their household or without asking their mama any questions or without her kids even being present because that's none of my business.
Other people will show up and they're like, "How can we help? What can we do? I don't have a lot of money, but I do have access to this." It's just people showing up that is what has been awesome. I have learned that people can show up for each other no matter what color they are and that has been super awesome.
How I take care of myself is, I have an awesome team of six volunteers because we're not a nonprofit, we're not LLC, we just run off community support. I have six volunteers that are fricking awesome and they can run this thing without me even being present. That is super helpful. I just try to take time to just take care of myself in the midst of doing this, but this serves my whole heart. This makes me happy.
[00:08:40] Andrew: Well, all right. [laughs] That's one way of saying that, but I feel like you poured a lot of yourself. One scroll of your Instagram just shows how much effort you're putting in and just the straight-up Work that this is. I noticed you're even branding things though. You're trying to make it all a thing. Look at your background right now. Folks, you can't see what I see, but I got the whole banner here with the logo and all the every way to do it. I presume that's for the events, but it's up in your house. It's a visual reminder. It's a good background for Zoom, of course, or whatever.
You clearly also had to figure out some ways to sell this project without being a salesperson, or maybe you were before this, but sales is a whole way of trying to relate with people. You know what I man?
[00:09:27] Rebecca: Yes. That was different because originally we didn't have a Facebook or Instagram. I was just making posts like, "Hey, you all, we're going to be here and this is what we'll have." Somebody was like, "You have to have a page or you have to have something else and you need stuff." I was like, "Well, we don't have money for stuff."
We were working out of boxes, this cardboard boxes with stuff in them. We would just load up as many cars as we could and put them on tables, but now we're getting official so we have stuff. We have [unintelligible 00:10:04]. We have real containers with wheels on them. I have just figured it out. It's been try and error some things have worked and some things have not worked at all, but yes.
[00:10:20] Andrew: I love it. That's fantastic. Like you said, you got a big event this weekend I'm looking forward to that. I'll be following that on Instagram for sure. People will be listening to this probably afterwards. I wonder the way I found you is you used our hashtag #OneGIANTCommunity which very few people do because it's so new. We just launched this project because we see and feel the same thing you're saying. People are willing to show up.
We've been sponsoring things for years. That's a big part of what we do at StickerGiant. It feels like it's more important than ever. First of all, how did you find that hashtag? Then why did you order labels to-- what are you doing with them?
[00:11:03] Rebecca: My sister has a project called Jilly pads where she provides menstruation products to-
[00:11:12] Andrew: Perfect.
[00:11:13] Rebecca: -people in the community that need them. She ordered stickers first. She was like, "Order stickers from this place." I was like, "What's it called?" She was like, "StickerGiant". I looked it up and she only saw it because it was like a commercial on YouTube.
[00:11:27] Andrew: Oh, wow.
[00:11:29] Rebecca: I ordered this. I was like, "What do I need stickers for?" I need stickers probably.
[00:11:34] Andrew: Probably.
[00:11:37] Rebecca: I ordered stickers and it was so easy. Then they sent the proof and it was like, "This is so easy. It's perfect." It was quick, it was so quick. I ordered the stickers and when the stickers came in the box, there was another sticker that said, "The hashtag."
[00:11:54] Andrew: [unintelligible 00:11:55]
[00:11:55] Rebecca: Then I was like-- I clicked the hashtag but there was only two.[laughs]
[00:12:00] Andrew: From me probably, you know what I mean? We just got it started. It's a new project because we want-- We've been doing community forever but now it's like we are OneGIANTCommunity.
Like you said already, it doesn't matter where you come from, where you work, where you go to church, what you look like, how you feel, how you love? How can we figure out a way to support all those people? It happened to coincide with pride month but we are not stopping this project just because June ends because we believe as you believe clearly the community is the whole deal, right?
[00:12:29] Rebecca: Yes.
[00:12:30] Andrew: I just want to make sure I get the right shout-out Jilly pads, J-I-L-L-Y?
[00:12:36] Rebecca: Yes, J-I-L-L-Y P-A-D-S.
[00:12:39] Andrew: All right good. Folks we're getting even another very wonderful community service this time from Louisville as well. This is Jilly pads. This is your sister?
[00:12:49] Rebecca: Yes, she's 13.
[00:12:50] Andrew: 13, oh my goodness. We've got to get her on the show next because that sounds pretty positive. Goodness gracious, Rebecca, good luck with your event this weekend. Thank you for what you do and what you're trying to do and where I know this is going. This is going somewhere. Clothe The West and that's the West End of Louisville?
[00:13:13] Rebecca: Yes.
[00:13:14] Andrew: Give us just a quick few places to find you and how people can help.
[00:13:19] Rebecca: Right. You can find us at Clothe The West on Facebook and Instagram. My name is Rebecca Ward so if you don't find Clothe The West you're welcome to search me, and I will send you the link. We also have an Amazon wishlist that is public. It is under Cothe The west. We are Clothe The West on everything Cash App, Venmo, PayPal, everything. Send us positive vibes and share our posts, that is huge. That is how you can help, you can share our posts. My plan is to take this on the road at some point.
[00:13:57] Andrew: Please do. You've got to. You've got to get-- You clearly are good at organizing and if your sister who's 13 is already doing this stuff it's in your blood all of you all and that's just fantastic. Folks who are listening in and you see how we're turning towards this community focus. It's always a pleasure to talk to people like you, Rebecca.
Thank you everybody for listening.
Just keep following this #OneGIANTCommunity. We're going to be doing this as much as we can. I know that Rebecca probably losing sleep over this because this is what she does now, and you hd just put, like you said your whole heart. I know that that is not easy to do so thank you for opening your heart to the people who need help.
[00:14:41] Rebecca: Yes, thank you. Thank you so much for having me.
[00:14:44] Andrew: We say it every time folks, every sticker has a story today it's Clothe The West. If you check out their Instagram and you support what they're doing, it will help out a lot of people and that's what we're trying to do here. We will see you next time.
[00:15:01] Rebecca: Thank you.
[00:15:41] [END OF AUDIO]
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