- C Johnston
Sally Power: Discovering Treasure
Sally Power knows what it’s like to be a woman in crisis.
Life was good when she married the love of her life, a tall, dark and handsome man she met at church. But she didn’t know how broken he was and the demons he lived with. It took years for her to find out about the depth of his problems and the extensive drug and alcohol problems he kept secret.
By the time her husband left, Sally had three children, two boys and a girl in their pre-teen and teen years. He drove away in his van, angry and never to return.
He left a lot of damage behind –most severely, over $200,000 worth of debt. Sally was working as a teacher and doing her best as a single mom, but was consistently short $300-400 when she paid her bills each month.
She says she learned a lot about suburban poverty during that time. Everything looked good on the outside, but daily survival was a struggle. “I couldn’t afford a pizza night. I couldn’t give my kids what the other kids had. And I was tired of being the crummy mommy.”
Being a woman of guts and grit, Sally gathered up the last of any possible resources and opened a consignment store to augment her income. She drafted two girlfriends to help run the shop during the three days each week of operation, while she continued working full-time.
Sally shares the story of a pivotal guest walking through the door. “One day while my friend Jackie was minding the store, a dejected young woman came in and sheepishly handed her a gift certificate from a local agency for domestic violence.”
It turned out that the gift certificate was all the young woman had. She had left an abusive situation with, literally, only the clothes on her back. Jackie helped the woman find a new wardrobe of sweaters, jeans and sleepwear. When the woman left the shop, her whole countenance had been lifted. Sally cried when she heard about this special guest.
Sally explains, “That was the first nudge as to what this organization was supposed to become … a long-term resource for women, particularly women in transition or crisis!”
A couple of astute businessmen helped Sally through the process of securing nonprofit status.
Sally shares, “Then I drafted my sister and other like-minded women to walk alongside me responding to a need – tangibly ‘affirming the treasure’ within women navigating challenging journeys.” And that was the birth of Treasure House Fashions, now located on McKnight Road in Ross Township, PA.
The mission of Treasure House Fashions is “promoting the dignity and self-esteem of women, particularly women in transition or crisis. Outward appearance is not an accurate reflection of your worth, but it can affirm the treasure that you truly are!”
“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:17-18
Sally works with over 60 agencies in the greater Pittsburgh area to provide much-needed clothing for women who are struggling. They may be leaving an unsafe situation, transitioning from incarceration back to society, experiencing homeless, or just needing a vital hand up. Partner organizations include Allegheny County Jail, Crisis Center North, Gateway Rehab, Light of Life, Sisters Place, Pittsburgh Community Corrections Center, Women’s Center and Shelter, and many, many more.
Treasure House Fashions has touched the lives of 50,000 women and donated $3.5 million dollars’ worth of clothing in the past five years.
The numbers are statistics, Sally says, “The numbers are nothing compared to the heartfelt change that Treasure House Fashions has brought. The impact on women’s lives is what’s important.”
Sally says she alone doesn’t create the impact that Treasure House makes. There is another employee, Tracy Kincaid, whom Sally calls her right hand. There are also nearly 40 hard-working and much-appreciated volunteers who help the wheels turn and the sales happen in a multitude of ways.
Keith Kondrich is a deacon and Program Director with the Foundation of HOPE, which is an interfaith non-profit with the mission of “Empowering people impacted by the criminal justice system to renew their faith, rebuild their lives, and restore positive relationships.” As a partner of Treasure House, he sees the impact first-hand.
The Foundation of Hope participated in a Sponsored Girls Night Out at Treasure House Fashions for women transitioning from incarceration back to society, and the response was overwhelming. Keith shares a handful of what he heard:
- “This was the best night of my life since leaving jail!”
- “Ms. Sally’s talk was so moving. I feel like I can accomplish anything!”
- “I felt like a regular person this evening.”
- “I will be styling tomorrow.”
- “They made us feel so special – like we really matter. I guess we do!”
There are a seemingly endless number of stories of women impacted by the organization. There’s the young woman who had left her home in Ukraine with very little clothing – and cried tears of joy to receive a shopping spree of quality, name brand clothing.
There’s also the woman whose apartment, including her beautiful wedding celebration attire, and all of her possessions, were all destroyed. Treasure House Fashions dressed her as the gorgeous bride she was meant to be.
And then there’s the high school student whose father lost his job, and a prom dress just wasn’t in the budget. She enjoyed a fun and uplifting shopping session, and found a phenomenal gown at Treasure House Fashions.
Shopping is an experience that makes these women feel valued and cared for. Keith Kondrich commented, “While the clothing and accessories are always incredible, it is Treasure House Fashion’s signature hospitality, dignity and respect that the women appreciate and remember the most.”
It’s important to Sally that women leave with more than clothing on their back and in their bags. They’ve experienced difficulties that could keep them from being all that they could be or were meant to be. And her mission is to help lift them up.
Sally has had bumpy life experiences she shares with others. “My mess became my message,” she explains with a bit of humor and a lot of honesty.
She didn’t have just one failed marriage with the wrong man, she had three. In each of her husbands, she saw the men they could be. But there were problems with all of them that could not be overcome. She’s been through and has seen emotional and physical abuse, extreme possessiveness, and manipulation.
“I really strived to make each of my marriages work,” she says. “I don’t give up on people. But I also won’t be a victim.”
“The worst thing in your life can be the best – when God’s hand is in it. He can use the ugliness to be a blessing,” Sally says.
She has gained much through what many would consider to be bad choices. Because of her first marriage, she gained her three children and Treasure House Fashions.
As a result of her second marriage, she got counseling, and became mentally and spiritually healthier.
And from her third marriage, she learned how to set boundaries, a skill that has improved all parts of her life and her relationships.
“In the Bible, we read about the terrible things Paul endured – shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonments. But God would work through all of them. That’s what he’s done with me. Through this mess, I have a message of hope for women who need help.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28
“I talk to women who have been hurt by men. I tell them that ‘when lighting strikes once or more than once, you need to look at how and where you’re standing. Regardless of how much the lighting caused the damage, you were the lightning rod. What in you attracted the wrong thing?’” A huge step is realizing that they need to change themselves for their situation to change.
She has much to say and share about who they are, the relationships they are in, what they are doing now, and how they can improve their lives. “You have great value. As a woman created by God, you are a pearl of great prize and should treat yourself that way.”
While Treasure House Fashions is a mission for Sally Power and a gift to women in need, it’s something that all women can enjoy.
By shopping at the non-profit store, all women can appreciate the high-quality clothing and “absurdly inexpensive” prices of Treasure House. And since 70% of total shop revenue is generated by “bargains”, customers know their simple shopping is benefitting others, particularly women in need. And the prices are a blessing to any budget!
Each time Sally Power sees a woman enjoying the healing balm of retail therapy at Treasure House, she is delighted. She remembers when she found herself in crisis, down but not out. As a burdened, single mother overwhelmed by debt, she made her way out of the depths by serving other women. God made Treasures, Sally knows. And she is committed to discovering and helping all the Treasures she can.
For more information, go to www.thfashions.org.