MISSION WEAR is a non-profit business run by women who are in recovery from addiction, prostitution, incarceration, felony and homelessness.
Beth McWhirter started Mission Wear in August 2006. In the spring of 2005, she had mentored a woman coming out of prostitution and addiction—Carrie. Carrie was not able to find a job for several months during their mentor relationship. When Carrie relapsed back into the street life of doing drugs and working on the street, Beth couldn’t help feeling that if Carrie had been employed, she would have made different choices.
So in early fall of 2006, when her 4 year-old twins started pre-school and she couldn’t stand the idea of using plastic bags any longer, Beth made a reusable shopping bag. It was then that she realized that making bags could be a job for women like Carrie.
It began as a small business started in her home with one employee.
Dee was 45, had been a prostitute and drug addict for 20 years, and wanted to start life over sober. She had a little work experience and was eager to get a job. “I couldn’t believe she could trust me” Dee said of that first month of work with Beth—because Dee didn't know how to sew, Beth made the bags and Dee tye-dyed them. Dee even learned how to sew. She then went to work full-time doing food service for geriatric day care.
Since then, there have been about 32 women to come through employment with Mission Wear. There are 7-8 current employees at Mission Wear. They are working in a space in Denver with 7 industrial sewing machines. Almost all of the bags are made out of recycled and donated fabrics.
The women are all trying to get back on their feet after having been knocked back by some tough consequences: incarceration, addiction, homelessness, domestic abuse….
Mission Wear is a place for them to start over; feel the grounding force of employment as they begin to pick up their pieces and put everything back together.