Veronika Scott and the Empowerment Plan coat
Coming from a troubled childhood, Veronika understood the problems that can beget people of any age, and the importance of self-worth.
When Veronika received a scholarship to the College for Creative Studies, in Detroit, Michigan, she took a class that "ended up changing my entire life."
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The class assignment was to create a product that could help people in need.
Veronika began speaking with homeless people in shelters and on the street, and learned there was a great need for coats to keep them warm.
After creating several prototypes, she designed an attractive coat. It kept them warm during the day and at night, the coat had an additional use.
When the coat is fully opened, one can slide his or her feet in up to their knees and close it with Velcro, as the coat becomes a sleeping bag.
But one day during the coat's development, a homeless woman in a shelter shouted to Veronika, "We don't need coats, coats are pointless. We need jobs."
Veronika realized, "A coat is just a band aid for a systemic issue. And what would really have the impact would be hiring the population that would need them in the first place."
So Veronika created a non-profit company, The Empowerment Plan.
Veronika, now 26 years of age, through The Empowerment Plan employs 20 former homeless shelter women as seamstresses to make these coats, and pays them a living wage so they can afford to live independently.
The Empowerment Plan has to date made and distributed 15,000 coats.
And later this year, it will make a retail version of this coat to sell to the public, with the intent of employing even more soon to be formerly homeless people.
But Veronika's Empowerment Plan is not just about the making of the coats.
"We're dedicated to helping our seamstresses succeed in all areas of life, not just professionally," said Cassie Coravos, Communications & Projects Manager.
"We offer GED [high school equivalency diploma] classes, financial literacy classes, professional development and improv, all during work hours."
"By improv, I mean that we have a weekly workshop that uses group theater activities to create a space for our seamstresses to work on communication and team building skills in a fun, engaging way."
It's an incredible story. May I encourage you to see a two-minute video of Veronika and two of the formerly homeless women, and watch the coats being made: http://www.empowermentplan.org/