If you are a regular at Burning Man, you likely know about PolyEsthers Costume Boutique in Midtown Reno. Esther Dunaway, who goes by Polyesther, makes faux fur, tutus and other popular burner attire. You will also find Halloween costumes in her Virginia Street store. When we showed up to meet her, however, Polyesther was working on something a little more traditional – a coat.
In the back of her shop, Polyesther was busy at her sewing machine, stitching together colorful fabrics of all sizes; creating a Coat of Many Colors. Polyesther designed the shepherd-style coat with the help of some University of Nevada students who are part of a journalism class to help area non-profits.
This semester, the group of Nevada seniors chose Good Shepherd's Clothes Closet as its case study. In researching the non-profit's business model, they learned the clothes closet is at risk of closing in the next six months if changes are not made. They brainstormed a unique way to raise money. They hope to sell pieces of the coat to individuals and businesses and then have the donors' named silk screened onto the sponsored squares.
When the students asked Polyesther for her help, she didn't hesitate. "My heart just melted," she said. While Polyesther is now in the business of clothing people, she used to be clothed non-profit. Eight years ago, she relied on Good Shepherd's Clothes Closet. "I was pregnant. I was pretty much homeless. I lost my job. I was in a really bad situation. And I signed up for Medicaid because I had no health insurance." That is where she received a voucher for the free clothes and stocked up on maternity clothes every month during her pregnancy. The staff even offered baby items for little Willa when she arrived. With a smiling eyes, Polyesther recalls, "They were just welcoming and kind and friendly and I just so appreciated it."
Now she is honored to be able to give back, by not only stitching together fundraising fabric, but also by providing hope for both the non-profit and everyone who walks through its doors. "I think I decided when I was homeless and pregnant and didn't have anyone that if I could live through that, and I told myself every morning, if I could live through that - that I could do anything."
If you would like to support the donation-based clothes closet, there are a number of ways to help. Executive Director, Chris Rhodes says they are always in need of clothing and monetary donations as well as volunteers. Also, you can purchase a square on the Coat of Many Colors. To see a sketch of the coat in progress, click on this link: http://www.gsccreno.org/events/coat-of-many-colors/Yellow square – (4"x4") – $25Purple square – (6″x6″) – $50Green square – (8″x8″) – $125Blue square – (10″x10″) – $250Red square – (12″x12″) – $500
To give donors recognition, the group would also like to silkscreen the names of donors on each square, however, the students are still looking for someone or a company that can donate its services. If you are a web or graphics designer, the students are also looking for help upgrading the non-profit's website. To learn more, make a donation or offer your services, log on to www.gsccreno.org. To learn more about PolyEsthers Costume Boutique, check out http://www.polycostumes.com/.
Written by Kristen Remington