Giving Rye is a new occasional feature highlighting non-profits and community groups in and around the City of Rye. Today meet Deborah Blatt of The Sharing Shelf.
Your Name: Deborah Blatt
Organization: The Sharing Shelf
Your role: Executive Director and Founder
MyRye.com: Tell us your organization’s mission.
Blatt: The Sharing Shelf, Westchester’s Clothing Bank for Children, combats clothing insecurity among low-income children and families in our community and meets basic material needs such as socks, underwear, diapers, feminine hygiene and toiletries. We collect new and gently used clothing for infants, children, and teens.
How long have you operated in Rye?
Blatt: The Sharing Shelf moved to its Port Chester home in January 2012. We started with just over 2,000 square feet and expanded to 5,000 square feet in August 2019 then added an additional 2,500 square feet (half of which is shared with the Westchester County Diaper Bank) in January 2023.
What programming or work in Rye is the organization best known for?
- The Sharing Shelf is the place to donate your clothing. When you donate new and gently used clothing to our program, our volunteers sort it by quality, size, season and gender. We then distribute to local children and teens at no cost.
- The Sharing Shelf provides a meaningful way to volunteer and help economically vulnerable children and their families. Volunteers are core to our mission. Those who join us in our Clothing Bank help screen, sort and organize clothing donations and prepare them for the children who will receive them. Equally important volunteers help in the community. We have a menu of “virtual volunteer” opportunities to organize clothing and coat drives, build hygiene kits and layettes sets, and much more.
- Each summer, The Sharing Shelf organizes its Backpacks to School initiative to fill new backpacks for low income children in Westchester. We partner with local businesses/area companies to sponsor this critical initiative. In 2023, we provided new backpacks filled with grade appropriate school supplies to nearly 1,900 children and teens.
Looking forward to 2024, what will be your top initiatives?
- The Sharing Shelf launched Westchester’s first free store for teens in January 2023 and received Impact100’s transformational grant to outfit the space like a real boutique. This grant enabled us to fine tune our space and create the store-like environment to welcome our teen shoppers. In 2024, we look forward to refining this program and welcoming more teens into this space. In 2023, we hosted two free shopping events benefitting over 100 teens from Port Chester High School plus other on-site events for the Community Resource Center, Greenburgh Academy, Children’s Village, St. Christopher’s and others.
- In July 2024, the Westchester County Diaper Bank, currently operated by the Junior League of Central Westchester, will come under The Sharing Shelf’s umbrella of programs. We are excited to work closely with the JLCW to refine this critical program which is the primary source of diapers for Westchester County’s Department of Social Services.
- Demand for The Sharing Shelf increased by 36% – more than 1,200 children – from 2022 to 2023. This increased demand presented challenges to our program and strained our resources, leading to shortages in clothing in many sizes. In 2024, we look forward to broadening our message. To rise to the increasing demand and need, we need more volunteers, more financial supporters, and more people committed to donating their children’s clothing to our Clothing Bank.
Tell us about the population you serve and how they can get involved with your programming and services.
Blatt: The Sharing Shelf is a bridge between Westchester’s communities. Our services reach children in almost every single city and town in the County. While the vast majority of those we serve live in communities like Port Chester, Mount Vernon and Yonkers, we have provided clothing to children living in wealthy areas like Scarsdale, Rye and Irvington. In 2022, more than 920 individuals donated funds to The Sharing Shelf, more than 1,700 individuals donated clothing, and over 800 unique volunteers lent a hand in our Clothing Bank or in the community. It takes a village to address clothing insecurity and The Sharing Shelf has a village – one that we need to grow larger – helping it succeed.
Are you a 501(c)(3) non-profit with tax exempt status?
Blatt: Yes – we do not receive federal or state funding.
Looking back across 2023, what were your organization’s top achievements?
- The Sharing Shelf was awarded Impact100’s Transformational Grant to help turn our new free store – Teen Boutique In Real Life – into a true store like environment with built in racks that have the look and feel of a boutique.
- The Sharing Shelf was named SwisRe’s Charity of the Year in 2023. This award was granted because of our commitment to the environmental reuse of secondhand clothing and our mission to address clothing insecurity. When we provide children with clean clothing, studies show, we improve their educational outcomes. Studies show that when children receive clean clothing, they are more likely to stay in school where they can learn and thrive.
- The Sharing Shelf has been able to reach a record number of children and teens through our umbrella of programs.
How can local residents support your organization?
Blatt: Financial support is key to our program. It gives us the flexibility to respond to the growing need. We also need clean, seasonally appropriate clothing in ALL sizes from baby through XXL. We welcome volunteers 14 and older in our Clothing Bank and seek business and corporate groups looking for meaningful volunteer opportunities. For those who are unable to help in our Clothing Bank or may be too young, we hope you will select from our menu of “virtual” volunteer opportunities and donate hygiene products, diapers, period products or organize a drive for clothing and/or coats.
What local Rye residents and area businesses have been the longest, steadiest supporters of your organization?
Blatt: We are grateful for the long-time support of Rye Community Synagogue for its volunteerism and ongoing clothing drives, Rye Presbyterian Church for its financial support and volunteerism, the Rye YMCA for partnering with us for collections and volunteerism, Rye Country Day School for organizing drives and volunteerism, and the many many members of the community who lend a hand, donate funds and spread the word about The Sharing Shelf.
Tell us about you:
How long have you been in your current role?
Blatt: I founded The Sharing Shelf and have been running it since 2009.
Is the role full time or part time? Paid or volunteer?
Blatt: I founded The Sharing Shelf as a volunteer and ran it as a volunteer for over 7 years. I am now the paid Executive Director and have built a team that has grown to 7 staff members. The Sharing Shelf is my passion and my full time job as it has been since I started it over 14 years ago.
How would your friends and family describe you in one word?
|Coke or Pepsi?
|Neither but Coke if I have to
|Regular or diet?
|Action movie or rom com?
|Cook, order in or eat out?
|Dog, cat or no pet?
|Dogs and cats
|Balsamic vinaigrette or ranch?
|Ruffles Original, Lay’s Barbeque or Funyuns?
|None of the above
|Still, sparkling or tap?
What is the kindest thing someone has ever done for you?
Blatt: This is impossible to answer. A friend who brought a meal without asking when I came out of the hospital, someone who made a personalized gift when my mom died, and the hundreds of people who every day believe in The Sharing Shelf and give their time and money to help this crazy idea I had to create a Clothing Bank.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why, and who would you take with you?
Blatt: I love South America – Patagonia is heaven on earth – but Iceland and Norway are not far behind. Give me a mountain, a glacier sparkling in the sun, the sound of a mountain stream tumbling over rocks and vistas as far as the eye can see and I am at peace.
What is your favorite streaming / TV series?
Blatt: The Office
What is your favorite movie?
Blatt: The Big Chill
Where do you live in Rye and how many years have you lived in the City?
Blatt: New Rochelle