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Philanthropy Through Fashion

Giving back can happen in many different ways. These locals have found a way to fuse philanthropy with fashion, making a difference for those in need throughout the community, and looking good doing it.

Philanthropy Through Fashion

Kerri Colangelo
Owner, Dechoes Resale

Kerri and her husband imagined a store with racks featuring high-end designer accessories mixed with vintage clothing, a store that also gave customers an incentive to recycle their gently used items. With that idea, Dechoes Resale was born. Now with three locations – one in College Park, one in Coytown on East Colonial, and the most recent at The Village at Artegon in Southwest Orlando – the couple continues to give back to the community through the store.

How do you use fashion to give back?
Kerri: Dechoes has given back to the community on various levels. We’ve partnered with smaller local organizations like Judy’s Pet Rescue and more recognized ones like the SPCA of Central Florida and the American Red Cross, to name a few. We host the Wine-Not-Wednesday parties to bring our customers together to have a good time. Customers come to check out the highly coveted new merchandise, but more importantly, to participate in a call to action in the community. Last year, we hosted a silent auction featuring prizes donated from local businesses for Julian “the Bug” Cruz. Julian is a young boy who is hearing impaired with cerebral palsy, shunted hydrocephalus, and epilepsy. He’s an amazing and inspiring individual. We donated all proceeds from the auction and 10 percent of sales to help pay for his tuition at the Blossom Montessori School for the Deaf in Clearwater.

Who benefits from your philanthropy?
Kerri: We aim to cast a wide net when giving back to the community. We hope that any positive actions, spread in all directions, will gain momentum. Our customer base is very diverse with a wide age range. It is especially common for a whole family to come in and shop. Tons of young customers come in and shop with their parents. They’ll make a day of it and go to all the stores. We feel that it is important to set an example, especially to the younger crowd, to give back and to be socially aware. We believe in paying it forward.

What does giving back mean to you?
Kerri: We believe in giving back and think that is stretches further than just writing a check. It is all encompassing. Giving back also means being environmentally conscious, which is incredibly important to us. We offer incentives to our customers to go green and to refuse to take a plastic bag. We print onto paper made from 100 percent post-consumer material. The whole concept of Dechoes is based on renewal. It is our lifeblood. Every item is purchased from a customer, is softly used, and still has plenty of fashionable life left in it. Every small step, whether it’s a leap or incremental, brings us closer to making the world a better place.

Who has inspired you to do what you do?
Kerri: Where do I begin? My parents. My mother follows my social media posts. She gives me feedback and ideas, not to mention constructive criticism, to this day and I love it. She is a young soul and still has her finger on the pulse of trends and fashion. And of course, my husband, Mike. He is my partner in crime and we work side by side every day. They inspire me every day and I am tremendously grateful for them.

Josie and Mark NeJame
Co-founders, Runway to Hope

Runway to Hope’s mission is to provide direct support to Central Florida children, and their families, who are impacted by pediatric cancer. This mission is sustained through many fashion-related events throughout the year, including the foundation’s signature event, the Spring Fashion Soiree. Rosen Shingle Creek will host this yearǯs event on May 16. The highlight of the evening is a special fashion show that features the brave children who are currently battling or have overcome cancer walking the runway to show off their beauty and their spirit.

How to you use fashion to give back?
Josie: I use fashion as a way to express myself and how I’m feeling. I realize that it’s just clothes but clothes can also have an impact on how you feel. With Runway to Hope, I see the same thing with these kids. These clothes that they’re putting on, it doesn’t define who they are but it says, “I’m a kid who’s 7, 8, 9, whatever age they are, and I want to go have fun. I want to be playful and joyful.” So it’s been a really good combination.

Mark: We give them clothes and dress them up, but we’ve come to learn how truly life altering it can be for these kids. Not with the materialism associated with the clothes but by them expressing themselves through the clothes.

Who benefits from your philanthropy?
Josie: We have three hospitals that Runway to Hope has been able to donate to: Arnold Palmer for Children, Florida Hospital for Children and Nemours Childrenǯs Hospital. With that we have made million dollar pledges to each of them and we’ve brought new programs to each of the hospitals. What’s wonderful is that all of these doctors are also working together.

Mark: It was a requirement we had with each of the hospitals that before we made our commitments to them, they all agreed to work with each other. It had never been done before but now this collaborative effort, which we’re honored to say that we helped kick start, is now occurring. The other thing is it was imperative we not cannibalize existing programs. We did not want there to be a duplication of services, which would just be wasteful. There are so many things that needed to be done, so we didn’t want the hospitals competing with each other.

What does giving back mean to you?
Josie: Giving back means making a difference in someone else’s life and it’s making a difference for these children. We know. We hear it from the children themselves and their families. In our home, we’ve always taught our girls to give back and it starts at home. With our girls, we’ve been very blessed at our event they do a lemonade and cookie stand so they’re out there raising money for the same cause. It warms me.

Mark: With the blessings that we’ve had it was time to do something. I think it’s absolutely necessary to a meaningful existence, for the short time we’re on this Earth, to do what you’re capable of doing. Knowing that this is making a difference in lives – some we know and some we’ll never know – hopefully we’re making a small difference but a significant difference in this effort.

Who has inspired you to do what you do?
Josie: There are so many people doing such great things that I’m being constantly inspired every day. But really, our girls because we’ve been blessed with amazing, loving, kind hearted children and they really are just an inspiration for us to always want to do better, to do more, to show them new things, and to show them that thereǯs goodness.

Mark: Thank God, so far today they’re healthy, but there’s hardly a parent who has a child with cancer who didn’t say that at some time in their life. The additional inspiration for me is my mother who worked in this field when I was a kid. I was well aware of what she did but I wasn’t aware of the emotional and personal sacrifices that she made for others, and as I got older I came to appreciate it all the more.

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