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Kids in Distressed Situations and Fashion Delivers are now one.
The charities, who said last summer that they intended to merge, completed the deal at the beginning of the month and will now be known as KIDS/Fashion Delivers Inc. A new Web site has been created — donateproduct.com — to secure donations of excess new product from manufacturers and retailers to provide relief to people in need.
Denise Williams, the former executive director of KIDS, has resigned to pursue other opportunities in the nonprofit world, and Joel Newman, a former chief operating officer of Kenneth Cole and Tommy Hilfiger, has joined the organization as interim president.
Allan Ellinger, cochairman of the organization, said: “Joel has extensive senior management experience in the retail and wholesale industry as well as experience with nonprofit organizations. He will initially concentrate on fine-tuning strategy and organizational development and will also participate in the search for a permanent president.”
In a conference call earlier this week, Ellinger said although the boards of both charities voted unanimously to merge last year, final approval had to come from the New York State Attorney General and then a judge. “But at the end of the day, we got our approval,” he said.
KIDS was founded in 1985 by children’s industry executives, and Fashion Delivers was created in 2005 by adult apparel and home fashions executives. Since their founding, the organizations have delivered more than $1 billion of new product to needy people around the world. Last year alone, the groups collected $179 million in product from 392 companies and distributed it to 816 community partners in the U.S. and internationally, according to Peter Paris, marketing director of the newly formed group.
Gary Simmons, cochairman, said: “Roughly 50 million people in the U.S. live in poverty, including seven million families. KIDS/Fashion Delivers brings together a diverse network of more than 1,000 community partners and 390 donors throughout the 50 states and the world to distribute donated product. Connecting these local, on-the-ground agencies with donated product given by some of the most recognizable brands in fashion, footwear, toys, home and juvenile product, allows us to provide hope and dignity to families and individuals facing these challenges.”
Ellinger said merging the two groups, which have worked closely together for nearly a decade, just makes “100 percent sense strategically.” He said when Fashion Delivers started in response to Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, KIDS welcomed the charity into its office and helped “nurture” the group. “We drew a line in the sand and agreed that Fashion Delivers would focus on adult and home product and KIDS would concentrate on kids product,” he explained. “But we realized when a disaster hit, we were focusing on helping families — adults and kids — so it made sense to join forces.” Ellinger said it also made sense from “an operating perspective” since many of the back-office duties were duplicative and “we were competing in the marketplace for money and product.” The groups operate with less than 3 percent overhead.
Under the terms of the deal, the two 30-person boards have been whittled down to one 31-person board and an 11-person executive committee has been created consisting of board members from both organizations.
The first post-merger event will be the 2014 Women in Industry luncheon on June 3 at the Pierre Hotel in New York City, an event that honors women of achievement in fashion, entertainment, real estate and philanthropy. This year’s luncheon will honor Celeste Gudas, founder and chief executive officer of 24 Seven Inc.; Deirdre Quinn, cofounder and ceo of Lafayette 148 New York, and Patti Buckner, vice president of apparel and accessories and licensing for Warner Bros. Consumer Products.
The first gala will be held on Nov. 5 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and will honor Thomas Kingsbury, ceo of Burlington Coat Factory, and former New York Giants linebacker and G-III Apparel executive Carl Banks with a third honoree yet to be determined, Ellinger said.
In addition, the first post-merger product distribution is scheduled to take place today with Bob’s Stores and Skechers teaming with the Read Boston literacy program and KIDS/Fashion Delivers to provide new shoes and books to children in East Boston.