(COLORADO SPRINGS) — On Monday morning, April 10, Southern Colorado community members gathered to celebrate the 10-year milestone of The Hanger serving the Pikes Peak region.
The Hanger is located in the office of CASA of the Pikes Peak Region and was started by a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer. Jane Hegstrom shared her inspiration for founding and opening this store in downtown Colorado Springs.
“It was a 17-year-old girl in foster care who had just been moved from one placement to another, meaning that she had to change high schools,” Hegstrom said. “And in her new placement, she would leave every morning and she came back to the group in the evening. But she wasn’t going to high school.”
Hegstrom provided her with gift cards to go shopping and be able to pick out clothes that she would feel comfortable in and could wear to school.
“And the last we knew of her, she was making a good life for herself,” Hegstrom said. “So it just struck me that if some clothes would keep kids in school, then that’s what we should be doing for them.”
The store provides clothes for children ranging in age from 12-21 who are living in out-of-home placement.
“It means the world to me, because not a single teenager that has shopped of these 3,000 kids, not a single one of them, are in the position they’re in, in life because they did anything wrong, they’re the ones paying the price,” Hegstrom said. “And so to hear the success stories, it just thrills my soul.”
The Hanger also provides real-world job opportunities for foster teens as they can work in the store and gain life skills.
“It’s a Saturday job and they sign up for random days that they want to work,” Hegstrom said. “They fill out a real job application. We do a real job interview, even though we’ll hire any of them that want to work. And then they pretty much run this store on Saturdays. They restock, they hang clothes, they check other kids out. But it is a real job.”
For Jordan Thompson, The Hanger was his first real job and ultimately set him up for success in landing his new job at Starbucks.
“I did grab my first job here at The Hanger. I wasn’t like employed where like I had to get paid, but like I got gift cards and stuff, you know, to go shop at other places,” Thompson said. “And it was cool when I worked here I get to work with people and I was really great with people. And it’s taught me how to have connections.”
Thompson opened up about how The Hanger helped him find the right clothes to feel comfortable in.
“From personal experience, for me, I come from like the LGBTQ side of things, but also the under-resourced side of things,” Thompson said. “So I get to smell what I wanted to smell like. You know, I use the boys stuff, so I got to get the boy stuff without like somebody redirecting that.”
Not only does The Hanger offer clothes, there also are toiletries, school supplies, and shoes available for teens to take with them. The store is able to help foster teens further build their confidence in dressing themselves and having items to call their own.
“To some of these kids, it’s a totally new experience. And they come in looking at the floor, downcast, whatever they find, clothes that they like, that they feel good in and they leave standing up straighter with their head held high,” Hegstrom said. “It just makes a huge difference in their self-esteem and their self-worth.”
The store relies on donations and is currently accepting spring and summer teen clothes. To learn about how you can help donate click here.
Over the past decade, The Hanger has served over 3,000 foster teens and provides them with the support they need.
“I feel like The Hanger is an inspirational place for like, not only kids to get involved but adults [too],” Thompson said. “And it doesn’t matter like what place in life you’re at. Like if you’re poor or the richest, or the privileged or the not privileged, it’s still a place where you can give back and be of service to help somebody else’s life prosper, because it’s a turning point that helps people grow.”