Style is more than the way a woman looks or the clothes she wears. It’s more than the way she carries herself. It’s about who she is. A couple of weeks ago, I got a chance to sit down with Becki Utley, and extraordinary woman. She’s got style.
I found Becki almost by accident. Her Facebook Page popped up by some algorithm in the system. What a great idea, I thought. People post “ISO” (in search of) what they need, and others post what they have to give away.
It all started when Utley needed things to help a friend. She tried Freecycle, but items got snatched up so fast, it seemed pointless to Becki. She decided to take matters into her own hands, so she started a Facebook page. Now she and Renée administer their Page together.
Becki began “rehoming” her baby clothes and furniture when she decided four children were enough for her. That was a little over two years ago; when she still lived in the affordable housing. Now, she and her friend, Renée average 30 to 40 hours a week picking up, sorting, washing, and distributing clothes, furniture, and supplies to those in need. Renée has five children. The women also provide resource referrals for people who need assistance.
They have one rule: Nothing gets re-sold. It’s all free.
“When we find someone selling items, we block them from the Page,” explains Becki.
Recently, my friend Suzie, and I became aware of a mother with three children who got their first apartment. The family had been sleeping in a homeless shelter. We began brainstorming where we might get some furniture for the new apartment. Homeless people have little more than the clothes on their back. Suzie thought of several charities in the area. I thought of Becki and Renée. Maybe they could rustle up some clothes.
Becki and Renée did more than that. With only a couple of days notice, Becki and Renée had everything the family needed to call their new apartment a home: furniture, clothes, cleaning supplies, bedding, and food.
Sometimes Becki and Renée find they have an overabundance of donations. That’s when they donate to local charities that are on their resource list.. If clothing is in disrepair, they take it to Goodwill to be made into rags.
Becki’s husband works as a Computer Assisted Design/Computer Assisted Manufacturing (Cad/Cam) programmer; Renee’s works for the local cable company. Each of the women makes and market hand-made items at craft fairs throughut the year. Still, they consider themselves working class or lower-middle class Stay-at-Home Mothers. Every penny counts. Thrift is a necessity, not a hobby. They understand, from first hand experience the importance of helping each other.
Renée and Becki store as many items as they can. If the item is too big, like a recent over-stuffed sofa, one of them will go to the site and take photos to post on a Page. If someone can’t pick it up, they help. Becki can load two sofas in the back of her van.
Becki is recovering from carpal tunnel syndrome surgery, and in the process of moving to a new home, a rent-to-own house in a typical suburbia neighborhood. Those two life-experiences slowed her down a bit, but she’s not stopping. In the midst of her move, she and I packed up to vans with clothes, books, toys, and even a bicycle.