Woman's World

Susan gives women in need the confidence boost they need to succeed!

As a single mom, social worker Susan Kanoff understood the struggles many others were facing all too well. But she also noticed that when she dressed well, she felt stronger. Didn’t everyone deserve to feel that great?

- —Kristin Higson-hughes

“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others.” SAINT AUGUSTINE

Though it was long after her part-time shift had ended, Susan Kanoff picked up the phone. “Call me whenever you want—nights, weekends; whenever you need to talk to someone,” the Lawrence, Massachuse­tts, social worker had always told her clients.

Divorced after a tumultuous 14-year marriage, mom of two Susan knew all too well what it was like to feel trapped. To look in the mirror and see shame. To lie awake in fear at night wondering: How will I pay the bills this month?

So when her clients cried, “I don’t know what I’ll do!” Susan listened, even if it was after hours. She directed them to services to help them make a fresh start. And she promised, “It will get better,” the words a vow not only to her client but also herself.

Styled with hope

In the coming years, Susan landed a wonderful full-time job and fell in love again. Yet even after she and Richard married, she never forgot what it felt like to feel desperatel­y alone, lost and broken. And she discovered that, when she was feeling her lowest, it worked a small miracle to slip into a dress and heels.

It was inside that mattered, of course. But looking her best made Susan feel like the strongest, most capable version of herself. Like she could overcome and accomplish anything.

My clients deserve to feel that same pride and confidence, she thought.

To help with expenses as her daughter, Alyssa, and son, Neal, went off to college, Susan started a side business as a fashion

coach. As she After

helped friends and neighbors weed through their closets, many asked, “Do you think anyone could use these clothes?”

“My clients!” Susan realized. And when she brought the items— everything from pinstriped slacks to wool blazers to leather handbags—into the social service office, her clients’ faces lit up.

“I’ve never worn anything this beautiful before,” one single mom marveled, twirling in a dress. “Thank you!”

Over time, Susan’s office came to look like a clothing warehouse. And it struck her: I wish there was a way to help even more women look and feel wonderful so they can rebuild their self-worth and self-esteem.

Dipping into her savings, Susan rented a cozy space. She set up bright white shelves and racks that held wrap dresses and designer jeans; coats lined with faux fur and statement necklaces—and the doors of Uncommon Threads (Uncommonth­reads.org) a hip boutique to provide women in need with clothing, opened.

“Be awesome today!”

Soon, women referred by social agencies were visiting Uncommon Threads. Women who had escaped abusive marriages. Women who had lost jobs, homes . . . everything. “I can pick out anything?” one young woman asked, incredulou­s. “Anything your heart desires!” Susan nodded. After trying on the first outfit, she could hardly believe her eyes. “For the first time in a long time, I feel beautiful. I feel alive!” she marveled, hugging Susan as she left with four complete outfits, accessorie­s included. For Renee Osborne, facing a debilitati­ng disease had taken its toll. Homeless for a time, she could never afford new clothes, and usually avoided looking in the mirror. Then she got an office job—but only had one decent outfit to wear.

“I’m afraid I’m not cut out to make it there,” Renee sighed.

But as she slipped into a fluted black sweater dress and a long strand of pearls trimmed with a gold tassel, a smile spread across Renee’s face. Then, spinning in front of the mirror in dark trouser jeans, ankle boots and a sweater threaded with silver, she gasped: “I actually look good!” And that Monday, Renee went to work beaming with confidence and pride.

“I feel like a million dollars in this outfit. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!” a young woman named Tanya beamed.

“Because of you, I can walk into my new job with my head held higher!” gushed Kathy, who had also been homeless for a while and was finally getting back on her feet. And another single mom, Robin, wrapped her arms around Susan. “I think the coat I received was magical. Every time I put it on, I feel like I really am somebody!”

Today, beneath a plaque emblazoned with the words “Be Awesome Today!” Uncommon Threads has helped dozens of women build wardrobes—and Susan couldn’t be more proud.

“Every woman deserves to feel beautiful. And every woman is a somebody. Our goal is for them to leave our boutique feeling empowered, like they can conquer the world,” she says with a smile. “Kindness makes the world go round. And we’re in the business of some serious self-esteem boosting!”

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