by Jessica Carreras
Ron Elkus is the co-owner of The Shirt Box, a clothing store in Farmington Hills.
The openly-gay Huntington Woods resident hopes to help men in need of good clothes for job interviews with his program “The Shirts Off Our Back.”
1. How did you get the idea for this program?
“The Shirts Off Our Back” program began almost two years ago as a month long promotion whereby customers would bring in gently used articles of clothing and receive monies off of new items. The overwhelming success of the program has led to a continuation of the program and The Shirt Box becoming a permanent drop site for the Neighborhood Service Organization, whereby those who donate clothing will receive a charitable contribution tax receipt.
2. Tell me a little about the program itself.
With the difficult economy, it became clear that there was a definite need for clothing to be donated to men who were reentering the workforce. Although many such organizations exist for women, very few were in operation for men. Having seen the great work being done by the NSO, we knew they were the perfect partner/recipient for the clothing drive. The program provides another form of giving other than the giving of money for people to be involved in their community and to enrich the lives of others
3. As a gay business owner, how do you think you’re contributing to the LGBT community?
As a gay business owner and a person very involved in the community, I have seen firsthand the impact of this economy on all people. NSO is a non-discriminatory organization and I believe by helping all men in this program we are positively impacting the gay community. People in our community have lost their jobs and homes and the NSO provides a wonderful place for those who can’t afford clothes, doing so in a completely nonjudgemental environment.
4. What other charities or benefit work have you been involved in?
I have been a past board member of MJAC, table captain for HRC, plus a founding member of Simcha. Other past or present board affiliates include: JARC, Cong. Shir Tikvah, Young Adult Jewish Welfare Federation and MSU Hillel. I am also involved with raising money for Broadway Cares, Equity Fights AIDS and Steppin’ Out.
5. You sell men’s clothing – but you also give it away. How have your business and your charitable work interacted?
I feel very strongly that it is our responsibility to give back to the community in which we live. If we are able to donate gently used merchandise to those in need, than we are doing our community a service. It is all about finding matches: those that have and those that need – we are just acting as the middle men. It is all part of our service at The Shirt Box – whether it is matching up shirts and ties or helping those in need, we love helping out!
Need a new shirt? Visit The Shirt Box online at http://www.theshirtbox.com.