Less than a few months old, Impact Humanity is the first retail storefront in Denver to offer free clothing and accessories, hygiene products, first-aid kits and even job consultations to those in need. Though the store recently opened its first and only location this past March, Impact Humanity is one of nine programs under the umbrella of Impact Locally — which began in May of 2010 when Travis Smith and a couple of his friends started giving back to the community by making and serving packed meals and distributing them to the homeless. “It started out with me doing this [handing out the packed meals] and once I started posting on social media, my buddies in different cities started to reach out to see how they could get involved,” said Smith. “It just created this expansion.”
Smith used to be a businessman working in the corporate world until a business partner of his embezzled a great amount of money from him, leaving Smith homeless himself for eight weeks. After experiencing the trials and tribulations of being homeless, Smith decided that once he got back on his feet he would do something to give back to that specific community.
As of now, Impact Locally is present in 10 cities across the country with more than a thousand people volunteering each month — whether that be by helping make meals, going on expeditions to provide the homeless with these meals or more recent to the program, helping sort clothes. With the help of Smith, his team and local volunteers, 248,800 people have been fed across the nation and 129,500 have received clothing.
Impact Humanity, previously named the Keep Colorado Warm Campaign, began two years after the birth of Impact Locally. Smith’s intent was to collect and hand out donations of clothing items such as sweaters, coats, gloves and beanies to provide the homeless with the necessities needed to keep them warm during the harsh Colorado winters. Smith soon saw the success in this idea and changed this campaign to a year-round program, introducing it under its new name, Impact Humanity.
“We first began this by throwing donations into garbage bags and throwing them into the back of my truck and handing them out,” said Smith. “However, our mission and our goal are to restore humanity. Shopping out of a garbage bag doesn’t make anyone feel human.”
This theory caused Smith to want to provide those in need with an actual shopping experience, like the kind someone would get walking into one of our many boutiques here in Denver. “We’ll even get people who aren’t in need walking by the store and come in not realizing what it is and trying to shop our stuff,” said Smith.
Clothing options vary from casual wear to outwear to even business wear. “I had a guy come in, a preacher’s son, who told me that he hadn’t been to church in a long time,” recalls Smith. “I asked him why and he told me it was because he didn’t have any [nice] clothes to wear. He was embarrassed to walk into his father’s church in his everyday t-shirt and jeans.”
Besides providing clothes that are good enough for a day at church, the dressier pieces are suggested to those who are in search of a job. With this comes advice from an in-house counselor that works with the person in need to find a job and get set up for interviews.
Inside the store is a resource center. This is where Smith and his team work to not only help find jobs but also counsel those in need on how to acquire food stamps and Medicaid. Volunteer guidance counselors don’t stop at helping just walk-ins who inquire about this kind of help, but they will take it to the streets to offer curbside counseling as well. “We’re able to look up and find jobs that they can qualify for,” said Smith. “Then we take it a step further and maybe get them a cell phone so that they have the ability to be in contact with their interested job of choice.”
Smith and his team at Impact Humanity welcome anyone who may want to volunteer or donate clothing items. The only stipulation they ask is that you follow the guidelines for donations. This includes donating clean, washed clothing that is well taken care of, and there is a no-underwear policy. Donations are taken Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
If you can’t find the time to volunteer, they also offer the opportunity to become a member of Impact Locally, which is a monthly donation plan that can range from $10 to $100. The proceeds go 100 percent toward the program. Impact Locally also offers the option to become a sponsor of their program. The sponsorship plan can range from $100 a month to $1,000 a month.
Impact Humanity’s clothing store is located at 2526 Welton St., Denver.
All photography by Meg O’Neill