KING — “Changing lives one outfit at a time,” is the motto for The Beautiful Exchange. Since the organization began in September of 2013, over a thousand lives have been touched.
Ashley Gray, founder of The Beautiful Exchange, wanted to help build girls’ confidence by providing clothing they felt beautiful wearing. At an event held in King on May 16 from noon to 4 p.m., over 300 girls and women were provided new and gently used clothing at no cost to them.
The Beautiful Exchange has held clothing exchange events throughout the Piedmont region, but this was the first one held in Stokes County. After forming a partnership with Stokes Family YMCA, Gray and her team spent months collecting clothing for the spring event.
Two sorting parties were held to prepare the donations. Over 30 volunteers, including Girl Scouts, YMCA board members, and individuals, helped separate the clothes into sizes. “It was wonderful to have the help,” said Gray.
Set up for the event took 14 hours on Friday. The community room was transformed into a clothing boutique, complete with an accessories department. “I want it to feel like a nice shopping experience,” Gray explained.
“People started arriving at 11:30, and there was a line at noon,” said Gray. A waiting area was set up in a room adjacent to the shop, and each participant was invited to fill out a short, anonymous questionnaire.
Girls as young as four months were given clothes. “Mothers were surprised, because they came to take care of their children and left with outfits for themselves, too,” Gray shared. The oldest shopper was 52.
Gray recounted, “a 14 year old girl was crying, so I went to see what was wrong. She said, ‘I’m just so happy I have clothes that fit and I will feel beautiful in.’ I was so moved by her.”
At the end of the day, all remaining clothes were given to King Outreach. “I wanted what came from Stokes County to stay in Stokes County,” explained Gray.
Although the details of the next event have not been finalized, Gray has plans for how to improve the process. For information about donating, volunteering, or attending future events, contact [email protected] or visit www.facebook.com/thebeautifulexchangenc.
Diane Blakemore may be reached at 336-368-2222 or on twitter @Pilot Reporter.