Robyn Hazelrigs helps clothe the needy.
“I give out anywhere from $125,000 to $140,000 a year in free clothing,” Hazelrigs said. “We are one of the only stores in Atlanta that gives free clothing.”
Hazelrigs manages the Buckhead THRIFTique, a nonprofit clothing and food pantry and thrift shop operated Monday through Sunday by Buckhead Christian Ministries and located at 800 Miami Circle.
The money the store earns selling secondhand clothes goes toward operating expenses, such as the light bill, Hazelrigs said. The rest of the clothes are given away.
She also donates reading material.
“I give a free book away to every child that comes in the door because I feel every child should have a book,” she said.
Hazelrigs said the ministry helps people in need, including the homeless and people who are out of work or have had their work hours cut. Single parents and parents of multiple children who can only work part time and people struggling to pay medical bills also receive help after proving they live in the 15 ZIP-code area the nonprofit serves.
Local religious organizations of all denominations and for-profit clothing vendors regularly donate to the shop to help its clients, who live in areas spread across Buckhead, Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs.
Adults aren’t the only ones who need help.
Hazelrigs said three 17-year-old boys came into the store in March 2013 wearing pants hanging off their hips, hoodies and T-shirts. “They came in and said, ‘We need suits. We’ve never owned suits and we have job interviews,’” Hazelrigs said.
Hazelrigs said she helped the recent high school graduates get dressed and showed them how to tie their ties.
“One man turned around and said, ‘My mom’s never seen me in a suit. This is going to make her day,’” Hazelrigs said. “That’s when I knew we were making a huge difference.”
Though she regularly works with 40 to 45 volunteers, Hazelrigs said she always needs more help around the store and more donations. “I love coming to work,” she said. “You get in your car and you know you’ve made a difference every single day and people are so grateful.”
Shortly after she started volunteering at the shop in 2006, Hazelrigs learned teenagers chose to skip prom because they couldn’t afford dresses and tuxes. She said she asked why the store couldn’t just give away dresses because they had so many.
Every March, Hazelrigs gives away more than 150 prom dresses and tuxes, many of which are donated by Le Dress, a shop located in Sandy Springs. The thrift store even helps coordinate a prom held at Covenant House, a homeless shelter for teenagers.
Last year, she gave away a tuxedo complete with cummerbund, and the foster child asked Hazelrigs when he had to return it. “Honey, you don’t,” Hazelrigs said she told the 15 year old. “This is yours.”
Though the tux was for his prom, the foster child planned to wear it for his band concerts, too, Hazelrigs said. He was relieved that his mother wouldn’t have to rent him a tux anymore because he owned one, she said.
“You could tell in his mind at 15 years of age, he knew financially how big of a burden that was for [his mother] and now he had his own tux,” Hazelrigs said. “He was getting it for prom, but now he got to wear it for all his band performances.”
The community of people helped by Buckhead Christian Ministries’ clothing bank also includes about a dozen people living under a nearby bridge, Hazelrigs said. “They use the thrift store as a personal closet, she said.
The thrift store receives such great donations that it creates the best-dressed homeless people, Hazelrigs said. “Because of this area, we get such great donations through the door regularly. I get so much Ralph Lauren that I can’t mark it up.”
Armani and Prada are two designer brands in the thrift store, but “marked up” prices mean $20 for an Armani tie that might sell for $250 new in a store, Hazelrigs said. Prada shoes sell for hundreds of dollars less as well.
Hazelrigs said she gives away J. Crew and Abercrombie & Fitch clothes every day.
“We have great people walking around looking good,” she said. “We have the best looking homeless people in Atlanta walking around.”