The Story of Spreading Threads Clothing Bank
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) are central to Spreading Threads Clothing Bank’s purpose, providing gently used and new clothes and items to foster, foster/adoptive, and kinship families in Southern Arizona. DE&I is fundamental to this work and is of the utmost importance in improving the lives of foster children in Southern Arizona.
Spreading Thread’s work directly challenges and seeks to change the practices, norms, and structures that create or perpetuate past, present, and future inequities among foster children. Spreading Threads interactions with all foster children and caregivers is based on respect and dignity because we know that how we work with foster children can affect their feelings of inclusion and equity in the community. We understand that many foster children have experienced discrimination in various forms and, therefore, we continuously reflect on who we serve and how we need to evolve to meet the needs of the community knowing that growth is continuous.
Spreading Threads stands with others for equity and justice and in denouncing racism, intolerance, and exclusion. We have been on a path of exploration to identify how to build the core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion into all our nonprofit’s operations, as well as model those values as we advance our mission. Finally, we believe that embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion as organizational values is a way to intentionally make space for positive outcomes to flourish, whether in direct services or in nonprofit capacity building.
How Spreading Threads Began
Spreading Threads Clothing Bank was started as a grassroots, 501 (c)(3) nonprofit clothing bank based in Tucson, Arizona, with the purpose of providing free clothing to youth in foster care in Pima County and Southern Arizona. Launched in 2018, Spreading Threads Clothing Bank was founded by Michele Wright and Michele Bennett, two women who have fostered and adopted several children in Southern Arizona.
Wright and Bennett began Spreading Threads after the State of Arizona cut benefits to foster children and their foster families. The two women saw a need to give foster children some dignity and wanted them to feel good in their own skin. With new, clean clothes, shoes, and school supplies, foster children can attend school feeling like they have a more level playing field.
Since its inception, Spreading Threads has assisted thousands of children and families in Pima County and Southern Arizona with obtaining the clothing and supplies needed for day-to-day living as well as for school, church, and special events. They have performed countless emergency pulls, day and night, for children who have entered the foster care system with little to nothing in terms of clothing, school supplies, books and toys.
Meet Our Board of Directors
As a nonprofit community clothing bank, Spreading Threads relies heavily on volunteer support. Our Board of Directors helps to keep our 501(c)(3) on track by making financial decisions, pursuing and obtaining sponsorships, organizing clothing bank events, and processing donations. Learn about our amazing and giving board members below.
Executive Director and Cofounder
Michele Wright was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. Her family relocated to Arizona when she was 13 years old. After graduating from Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Wright attended the University of Arizona where she earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Biology. She really liked the feel of Tucson so stayed in the area after college.
President and Cofounder
Michele Bennett cofounded Spreading Threads Clothing Bank two years ago with her wife, Michele Wright. The two have fostered and adopted four children and realized through their personal experience how badly foster children and foster families needed support.
Having known both Micheles for years, Phillips was excited for the opportunity to become a part of the Spreading Threads Clothing Bank Board of Directors. She met Michele Bennett in college and she distinctly remembers the discussion about starting a clothing bank.
Phillips said she and her husband were inspired to foster and adopt after watching the two women work through their own foster experience. The couple has fostered five children over the years and adopted two of them in addition to having one biological child of their own. As foster parents, Phillips and her husband were aware of the cuts to the clothing stipend being made by the State of Arizona and the need for extra help for foster children and the families caring for them.
Since the launch of Spreading Threads Clothing Bank, Tucson native Pat Hernandez has served as the secretary for the board of directors. She met Michele Bennett nearly 20 years ago as they work together for TUSD. As a school health assistant with two grown children and two grandchildren of her own, children hold a special place in the Hernandez’s heart.
Over the last 25 years of working in schools, Hernandez has seen many foster children enroll and move through TUSD. She also watched as her brother completed a kinship placement for her nephew. Through these experiences and her work with Bennett, she became aware of how much support is needed by foster children and their families and how little assistance there really is for them.
Sharon Bennett became involved with Spreading Threads Clothing Bank through an invitation from her daughter and cofounder, Spreading Threads President Michele Bennett. Despite living in California, Sharon Bennett serves as treasurer for the Spreading Threads Board of Directors. When the clothing bank was getting off the ground, Sharon Bennett and her other daughter would scour local garage sales in California for clothing that was in good shape at reasonable prices to ship to Tucson.
As a semi-retired bookkeeper herself, Sharon Bennett was an ideal match for the responsibilities of the treasurer’s role. When her daughter asked her to join the board, Sharon Bennett gladly accepted.
Member at Large
Not only does Beth McAbee sit on the Spreading Threads Board of Directors, but she counts herself lucky to call the two Micheles her neighbors. She has lived next to the couple and their children for more than a decade and became intrigued one day when she saw the women sorting clothes in their garage. That’s how she learned about Spreading Threads Clothing Bank and she instantly wanted to help.
“What I like the most is witnessing the passion between Michele Wright and Michele Bennett,” McAbee said. “They are really into this. They put on a holiday event and try to make it fun for the kids. Because they had adopted their own kids, they know what the kids need so they are perfect for this nonprofit. You get wrapped up in their enthusiasm and energy.”
Member at Large
A long-time friend of Michele Wright, Mary Springer wanted to help out in her community and she felt Spreading Threads was a place where she could make a positive impact. Springer, who moved to Tucson from Iowa in 1999, is a self-employed hairdresser. She said she served as a foster parent herself for a brief period of time and really got to see the need that is out there for foster children and their families.
When Wright told Springer about Spreading Threads, she wanted to help and joined the board of directors as a member at large in late 2019.
Business Development and Outreach Lead
The newest member of the Spreading Threads Board of Directors is Sandy LaRowe. She said she has always wanted to become more involved in volunteering for a nonprofit organization but her work schedule always seemed to get in the way. Now, the Portland, Oregon, native who has more than 25 years of experience in the apparel and footwear industry has made the time to volunteer for Spreading Threads.
The Story Behind Our Logo
One of the children that was fostered and adopted by Anna Phillips and her husband is Dagny Phillips. The couple adopted her when she was just a year old and she has grown up feeling lucky to have found her forever family.