Like a benevolent cobbler elf, the Shoe Man visits The Hanger weekly to share his largesse: brand-new, famous label offerings, the perfect wardrobe additions for today's stylish teens. He shares his wares but not his name, preferring to remain simply an anonymous benefactor.
"He's been an amazing example of the good people in the world," said Jane Hegstrom, a volunteer with the nonprofit CASA of the Pikes Peak Region who's worked with children in foster care for 13 years. "That's especially great because these kids have seen a lot of the not-so-good people."
In the 12 months since it opened in March 2013 in a former retail space on East Boulder Street, The Hanger - a shopping spot exclusively for teens in the foster care system - served 340 people. Teens can pick five items each month, choosing from among new and gently used donated clothing, shoes, accessories, sporting goods, books or even DVDs and CDs.
The store also provides foster teens a chance to learn about the inner workings of the retail industry, with opportunities to work behind the register or elsewhere in the store to earn extra clothes and valuable resume experience.
Seventeen-year-old Amelia, a Colorado Springs foster teen who's worked at The Hanger for almost a year, says the job helped her discover a flair for fashion and for spotting trends. She now plans to pursue retail as a career.
"I'm a teenager and I know what teenaged girls like, so I help them in a sales associate role because I communicate well with kids," she said. "It's been an amazing experience for me."
In the past year, about 35 Hanger shoppers have requested and completed job applications and gone through the interview process, Hegstrom said.
"We hire all of them, but we just do the application and the interview to give them that experience," she said. "We are beginning now to have real employers call us because kids are putting The Hanger down as work experience on real job applications."
CASA - short for Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children - is a volunteer-run nonprofit that relies on donations and grants; the Hanger is located in donated space.
"CASA trains volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children," Hegstrom said. "The store is just one small part of what CASA does."
Contact Stephanie Earls: 636-0364