Kent State Stark, Goodwill Industries and Belden Village Mall Join Together in Flash's Professional Closet Donation Station
Much like the Kent State University at Stark students who frequent Flash’s Professional Closet on their way from classrooms to first day on the job or internship, the secondhand clothing site in Campus Center is making its mark in a new way. Now with a storefront in Belden Village Mall in Canton, Flash’s Professional Closet has expanded its reach, thanks to a new community partnership.
Flash’s Professional Closet has a visible presence at the mall through the creation of Flash’s Professional Closet Donation Station. The drop-off donation site in the mall’s north wing, next to GNC, serves as an encouragement for mall shoppers to donate gently used or new, professional clothing to students in need of career-oriented apparel.
Kent State Stark is about providing access to an excellent education, as well as the tools necessary to propel students forward into the working world. That begins with professional clothing.
“Our students come from different backgrounds, and Flash’s Professional Closet provides them with the clothing they need to enter the workforce with confidence,” says Tina Biasella, director of external affairs at Kent State Stark. “Business attire is expensive. We are filling a critical gap by providing professional clothing that puts the focus on a student’s skill set. Instead of being judged on appearance, future employers see the value all students bring to the table.”
Kent State Stark’s professional closet, which held its grand opening on campus this spring, follows suit with initiatives at universities across the state, including Ohio State University. The state’s largest university holds a daylong Career Closet event, allowing students to select donated professional clothing for free.
Kent State Stark’s new community partnership, initiated by Ms. Biasella, includes the Belden Village Mall and Goodwill Industries of Greater Cleveland and East Central Ohio Inc. Collected clothing not distributed by Flash’s Professional Closet will be donated to Goodwill.
“All three of our organizations are intricately connected, but it takes creative thinking to forge a new partnership,” Ms. Biasella says. “We already have a great partnership with Belden Village Mall, and it only made sense to expand that to help students and others who are in need in our community.”
Kicking off the collaboration in April, the mall hosted the Proper Presentation Challenge, part of its Live 360 initiative. The event tasked Kent State Stark students with putting together a professional outfit using new and used clothing items.
“Goodwill Industries was honored to be included in the Proper Presentation event,” says Maureen Ater, Goodwill’s vice president of marketing and fund development. “We truly appreciate the partnership between Belden Village Mall and Kent State University at Stark. All three organizations share a common focus on supporting our community’s young professionals.”
Rylie Woods, a recent Kent State Stark graduate, agreed that supporting young professionals is a critical component of her work at Flash’s Professional Closet. While still a college student, Ms. Woods became affiliated with Flash’s Professional Closet when it started on campus in 2017. Today, she oversees the closet’s efforts.
“To me, this partnership shows the generosity of Belden Village Mall to provide us with our very own space inside their business,” says Ms. Woods, Connect2Complete coordinator at Kent State Stark and AmeriCorps VISTA member. “It also shows the generosity of Goodwill to share these donations with us. I am confident that we will receive many donations because, if I’ve learned anything from living in Stark County my entire life, it’s that the people who live here are so willing to help others.”
“IN THIS TOGETHER”
Gina Bannevich, who served as marketing director at Belden Village Mall during the partnership’s inception, says the collaboration fits well with the mall’s initiatives.
“We appreciate and value relationships like this partnership because it solidifies Belden Village Mall’s presence in the community as a gathering place,” she says. “We are not about retail alone.
We are about the people who support our retailers, those who work from our community inside our stores and the many people we touch daily with what we have to offer beyond the shopping experience," Bannevich adds. "Flash’s Professional Closet Donation Station and the partnership with Goodwill and Kent State Stark bring our worth full circle.”
Ms. Biasella says Kent State Stark is grateful to its community partners.
“We are thrilled that Goodwill and Belden Village Mall have provided this opportunity to keep Flash’s Professional Closet filled with great clothing options,” she says. “We have found the thread to connect us in a unique way. It shows how we are in this together.”
HOW TO DONATE
Flash's Professional Closet
Located in the lower level of the Campus Center
Kent State University at Stark
Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday
Flash's Professional Closet Donation Station
Located in the north wing, next to GNC
Belden Village Mall
Open during operating mall hours