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VOL. 128 | NO. 172 | Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Memphis Suit Project Aims to Dress the Needy

By Andy Meek

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Three Memphis businessmen have started a nonprofit venture to help young men literally suit up for opportunities they encounter – the kind of opportunities that make it possible to advance in life and that require the participant to dress for the occasion.


The Memphis Suit Project is the initiative from Memphis attorney Justin Thomas, certified financial planner and Atkins Capital Management partner Will Moore and Tom James clothing store branch manager Jay Lawler. The idea is to collect suits that could be repurposed as part of the wardrobe for a young man facing an event like a job interview or a first meeting at a prospective college.

“They may need the suit for any number of reasons, but what we don’t want is for them to miss out on an opportunity in their life because this is something they can’t buy,” said Thomas, the founder of Thomas Family Law Firm PLC.

“It’s important to me that I give back to the city that’s given so much to me. I do that by investing my time with the youth of Memphis. Many of these kids just need to be exposed to opportunities. It’s my job to help them be best prepared for those opportunities.”

He said the concept is similar to the female-focused Dress for Success initiative, except this fills a niche in being tailored to men. The hope is that businessmen – who often have more than one suit, and often especially one that doesn’t get worn anymore as sizes change – will dip into their closet and make a donation that could help change a life.

The initiative is getting off the ground now, with the Memphis Suit Project having recently held a kickoff event with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis. Suits are the main focus, but the venture is thinking even beyond that to articles of clothing like coats, pants, belts, shoes and more.

The new and used donated suits will be custom-fitted to the individual measurements of the person they’re being donated to. The name also will be embroidered on the inside jacket pocket before delivery.

It was modeled after the successful St. Louis Suit Project, which is doing similar work.

“There are a lot of people in need in this city,” Thomas said. “I’m a lifelong Memphian and have a heart for the inner city, where sometimes kids are born with few opportunities. This is one small way to make an impact.”

All the project’s founders have deep community involvement. Thomas is on the board of directors of the University of Memphis M Club and also works with the Leadership Empowerment Center in Frayser.

Lawler and his wife are involved in Holy Rosary Church, where he coaches his children’s sporting events and is a Dave Ramsey Instructor. He also speaks to groups like the American Diabetes Association, and the Boys & Girls Clubs.

Moore serves on the public engagement committee for Shelby Farms Park Conservancy and is on the board of trustees for the Gifted Education Foundation, among his other involvements.

The Memphis Suit Project’s organizers take no compensation. For anyone to be eligible for a donation, the venture asks that applicants perform one random act of kindness for someone else.

That act doesn’t have to cost anything. Confirming that act will qualify someone to receive a donation, with the hope that the project inspires a virtuous circle of generosity.

PROPERTY SALES 51 180 16,377
MORTGAGES 21 57 10,144
BUILDING PERMITS 103 665 39,209
BANKRUPTCIES 31 107 7,704