Jamaica outlet to use haute couture to fight autism

The Heart & Home thrift store will be selling these dresses for charity. Courtesy of Tender Care Services
By Ivan Pereira

A new thrift store in Jamaica set to open this weekend wants to do more than give customers a large selection of fashionable clothes at an affordable price — it will also benefit autistic children.

The Heart & Home Thrift Store, at 92-17 165th St., was created with a partnership with Tender Care Services, a Jamaica nonprofit that helps autistic children, and will be donating some of the sales of clothes to fund one of Tender Care’s most popular programs.

Yolanda Vitulli, the founder and executive director of Tender Care, said her music and art therapy program were popular with her young members, but private funding for it was not as strong.

When Heart & Home Services, which she also works for, came to her with the idea of the thrift store that would help fund programs, Vitulli said she jumped on the opportunity.

“You have to be more innovative for services,” she said.

Over the last few months, Vitulli and her staff have been taking clothing donations from family, friends and generous donors to make the store a popular destination for bargain hunting and fashion fans. Everything from business suits and dresses to sportswear and T-shirts will be on sale for customers.

Someone even donated a wedding dress, according to the executive director.

“People are enthusiastic about it. There are a lot of trendy shops and people are looking forward to something different in the area,” she said.

Vitulli, the mother of an autistic son, said she would like to raise $20,000 to $25,000 to keep the arts and music program running. Students who take part in the weekend program learn a musical instrument and use music to express themselves.

Several children have benefited from learning the instrument and improved their skills, according to the executive director.

“Funding is necessary if we want to maintain that,” she said.

The store will be open six days a week and have Tender Care members who have developmental disabilities serve as volunteers at the shop.

This is not the only fashion charity event the nonprofit has in the works. On Sept. 14, Tender Care will be holding a fashion forward show at La Bella Cucina Ristorante in Middle Village and all proceeds will go to the music program.

Log on to tendercareny.org to get more information on Tender Care and its programs.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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