POMPANO BEACH, Fla. – When Lindsay Giambattista was 14 years old she came up with the community service idea that has become Taylor's Closet in Pompano Beach, an organization that gives at-risk young women between the ages of 15-to-25 designer-donated clothing.
"I remember it vividly," her mom, Linda, explained. "We were on vacation and she came running up the hill from this little lake house we were staying at and she was like 'I have the idea. I have the idea. I'm going to give away all my clothes.' I was like 'Oh come on.'"
PHOTOS: Inside Taylor's Closet
But Lindsay meant business and named the venture after her twin sister who died at birth.
"Lindsay's whole purpose to do that was to keep her memory alive. She really started it to just give away clothing to teenage girls in South Florida who didn't have the ability to buy clothing or maybe were in a bad spot and just needed a little love and hope and making them feel like that have value," her mom said.
Taylor's Closet offers the at-risk girls its serves three garments a month. They are all new, contemporary clothing of exquisite quality donated by top designers like The French Connection and XOXO.
"Some girls walk in and say 'I've never been shopping, ever,' which blows my mind," Linda said. "These are girls that have never heard 'Uou look beautiful.' When they hear that they just start crying. They stand in the dressing room in that beautiful antique mirror and they just start weeping."
As soon as you enter Taylor's Closet, you know you are some place special.
The shop's rich aesthetic beauty gives you pause and Linda explains how that's exactly the point.
"Everybody walks in and says 'Oh my gosh. It is so amazing.' But we did that intentionally because the girls are used to such low standards. You know when they leave the foster care home they basically are given a garbage bag and we wanted to make sure it was the other extreme. We wanted every single thing, every detail to say extravagance, to say you're worth it and if you set your standards high like that, then you are going to go get 'em. But if you start with low standards, you are probably not going to reach high for anything more," Linda said.
"As we started getting closer to the girls and knowing them we realized there was so much more work that needed to be done and as a mom, I started feeling like we needed to teach them some really basic skills like cooking, sewing and art," Linda said.
As a result, Taylor's Closet's "Awaken Program" was born. At the core are evenings spent with Linda cooking for the girls, offering the kind of family dinner time many of the young women have never experienced. If the clothing gives them the sense of value and beauty, Linda says it's the conversations that happen in their shop which she feels transforms lives.
"We always have homemade cookies and this is where we hang out. We talk about life. We talk about some of the things that they are going through, talk about some of the things they are having issues with. Most of them are struggling with forgiveness because they have been abused or neglected or abandoned by their mothers or fathers," Linda said. "That takes a lot of forgiveness, so we are trying to help them through that."
"I always like to think of the girls that started with us. They started when they were 15 and now they're 22, 23 they are graduating from college and I honestly believe they would have never graduated from college if they didn't come here. It just makes you reach for so much more, you know you can do it."
Lindsay's work has been featured in Seventeen Magazine. She's now away at Savannah College of Art and Design, so her mom oversees the day-to-day operations of Taylor's Closet, offering the young women it serves the love and support she feels blessed to provide.
"I'm just so honored to be doing it because these girls are so special and I see their lives changing," Linda said.
March is "Corporate Month" at Taylor's Closet. Their goal is to partner with sponsors in South Florida to raise $15,000 which Linda says will allow 350 girls to shop at Taylor's Closet and 5 girls to go through their Awaken Program.
To learn more you can go to: www.taylorscloset.org