Binghamton University is normally focused on preparing students for future careers, but before the Thanksgiving break administrators had a different focus: employing members of the local community.
From Nov. 17 to 24, students and faculty donated 68 bags of professional dress and approximately 500 articles of clothing through Perfectly Suited, a clothing drive organized by BU’s Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) which teamed up with the Binghamton YWCA.
A charity program that was engineered by the Binghamton YWCA over 10 years ago, Perfectly Suited was shut down in 2011 due to flood damage and reopened this year. It provides low-income men and women with professional clothing for job interviews, which they might not be able to get on their own.
Theresa Bovier, a vocational and educational counselor at the YWCA, said that the clothing drive was essentially a revival of the program that began over a decade ago.
“Perfectly Suited has been around since 2002, but we never had the place for it,” Bovier said. “We were going to have a grand opening the very day Binghamton was shut down by the flood in 2011. This was something in the back of our head that we always wanted to do, and then Nava came and she jumped right on it; she took it and ran with it.”
The Perfectly Suited Professional Clothing Drive was restarted by Nava Jacknis, a senior majoring in human development. As her practicum, Jacknis decided to reopen the program in the YWCA, where she works as an intern, to gain more experience working directly with people.
“I thought it would be a really good idea to connect the campus to the community,” Jacknis said. “I thought it would be great if we could get people on campus involved in donating their clothes. So, I had a graphic designer friend of mine create a logo and I put it on a flier that I advertised around campus.”
Though she collaborated with Bovier and with Allison Alden, director of the CCE, Jacknis was responsible for most of the drive’s organization and maintenance.
“This is the kind of thing that any student can do,” Alden said. “Here is one person, Nava, one person who is going to make a huge difference in the lives of the people who go to the YWCA to get this clothing.”
In addition to organizing the drive, Jacknis purchased all the collection bins, gathered the clothes from them daily, cataloged the items and promoted the cause on social media.
The event was promoted on B-line and donation bins were placed in the CCE, Twin River Commons and the University Downtown Center. People could also contact Jacknis directly if they wanted to donate in bulk.
According to Jacknis, the majority of the donations were provided by University faculty members. These included suit jackets, ties, dress shoes, skirts, pants and blouses.
“The most active people in the drive it seems, at least for the large donations, have been professors,” Jacknis said. “I actually had a professor who was one of my first teachers here and she emailed me saying she had a lot of donations. So it’s been really great; my professors have been really nice about supporting me through the process.”
Despite the contributions of several faculty members constituting the majority of donations, the drive still saw many students donate and support the cause as well.
“I think it’s an awesome opportunity for BU students to get involved with the community,” said Stephanie Wayte, a junior majoring in English. “A simple act of donating some clothes could make a world of a difference in someone else’s life.”