The Phone Call That Changed Everything
Celebrating everyone who makes Adorned in Grace possible
It was in the summer of 2010 when Linda Tribbett received a call from Kate Wilkins at her petite bridal shop in Fairview, Oregon. Although Kate was calling on behalf of her daughter, who had asked her mother to donate her wedding dress for her, it was Kate who would soon become captivated by the anti-sex trafficking bridal shop.
“When she explained what they do I thought it was the most amazing thing ever,” Kate said. “So I just started praying about it, donated the dress and started learning about sex trafficking.”
Kate continued to have conversations with Linda after she had donated her daughter’s dress and it was during one of these conversations that Kate brought up the idea of opening a store on Portland’s west side.
“I remember saying to myself, ‘I don’t even know why I’m thinking about this, I’m a substitute teacher.’” But Kate continued to pray about the shop. Next thing she knew, she was venue-shopping.
Linda was all for the idea of a west-side store, but knew the challenge was going to be finding a space that someone would be willing to donate for the cause. Only a year earlier, due to a surplus of donated dresses from her community, she was selling wedding dresses from trunks of cars and spare bedrooms until she was blessed with the donated space in Fairview. However, the space was only promised to her for a year.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
There was a particular storefront in the parking lot of Fred Meyer, nestled in the Raleigh Hills that Kate passed by frequently. Although property managers scoffed at the idea that Fred Meyer would donate a space for free, Kate continued.
“She was persistent and went right to the vice president of their real estate division and asked her if they would consider donating property to fight trafficking.” Linda said.
Despite keeping a tight schedule, the vice president seemed to have an interest and continued conversations with Kate. The conversations continued for months and time was running out for Linda and the Fairview location.
“I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20
Finally, one day before Linda needed to move her dresses out of the store, Kate was handed the keys to a storefront in the Fred Meyer parking lot. But to her surprise the storefront that she was given the keys to was exceedingly bigger than the one she was negotiating for.
“The space is unbelievable,” Linda said. “Five bay windows that are perfect to display dresses in. 2800 square feet. We couldn’t touch it to rent if we had to rent it.”
The conditions: the store had to change its’ hours from only open on Saturdays to at least being open five days a week. Not only were the pair going to have to find volunteers for four more days but because the store was moving all the way from Fairview to the Raleigh Hills, they were going to have to find all new volunteers.
Linda too lived about an hour away so she asked Kate, who lived about five minutes away, to be the store director.
“It quickly became evident that God had handpicked and uniquely gifted Kate to lead Adorned in Grace forward.” Linda said.
Leading the Charge
Kate accepted and quickly began searching for volunteers while she established new operating procedures.
“She started to have to build a team from the west side and she was just amazing at doing that,” Linda said. “Making connections with churches and schools and family friends, and having them get the word out too that she was recruiting.”
Kate said a lot of miracles happened in that month, donations flowed in and volunteers flocked from every corner. By June 4th, 2011, Adorned in Grace celebrated their grand opening.
Linda believes that it was Kate’s teaching skills and organization that truly encouraged the shop’s coming together.
“She is an amazingly gifted teacher and teaches everyone how to work in the shop.” Linda said. “Policies and procedures, everything is very consistent--even hanging the dresses on the hangers. It’s very nice, very uniform and it makes it a more pleasant experience for the customers too.”
Kate said the biggest challenge of running the store has been training and keeping a full staff of volunteers.
“I never take them for granted.” Kate said. “ They’re passionate about what they’re doing and they’re giving up their time and talent. I’m just kind of amazed at being able to keep track of all of those volunteers and just steer them and all of their different talents in the right direction.”
Joy Patterson, who has been a volunteer at Adorned in Grace for about a year, said her talent is, “the gift of gab.”
“I use humor,” Joy said. “I like to make people laugh if it’s appropriate because it hasn’t been fun out there elsewhere. And here, we’re having fun already.”
Joy said she loves that Adorned in Grace is an all-volunteer staff because it makes it a comfortable time for everyone when customers don’t feel like they’re being hustled.
“Letting the customer know that we are all volunteers really helps because then they realize we don't gain anything, commission or anything like that, so there’s never any animosity about it and that was a problem back in the day.”
Joy, who used to work in retail sales, said she might have had a small advantage when she began volunteering but she doesn’t believe there’s any reason someone should feel nervous before volunteering at the shop.
“There really aren’t any mistakes to make because you aren’t going to have to handle money as a beginner,” Joy said. “And you can learn at your own pace. I don’t believe that you are ever asked to do anything here that would make you feel uncomfortable.”
She said she enjoys coming in every week and she never feels exhausted when she leaves. She’s “in it to win it.” What is she trying to win: the battle against sex trafficking. And indeed the volunteers do win it.
A "win-win" situation
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
Last year, after four years of being open in the Raleigh Hills, the shop earned over $100,000 for the prevention and awareness of sex trafficking as well as for anti-sex trafficking resources.
“It’s just a great story of teamwork and diligence and when our customers come in there, the thing that they notice the most is how gracious and kind and helpful the volunteers are. They just really care about each of our customers and about the cause and they just do this is out of the goodness of their heart.”
According to Linda, in 2014, each hour that a volunteer worked they raised over $44. And because all the dresses are donated and the only expenses are the phone and electricity bills, almost all of the money goes to anti-sex trafficking efforts.
Proceeds from the shop have contributed to the creation and operation of the Design Studio, a place on the east side of Portland where at-risk girls living in Portland’s high-crime neighborhoods can learn important life skills and develop relationships with Christian mentors.
“Six of the 20-some girls who regularly attend the Design Studio have made a profession of faith in Christ, have been baptized and have also become involved in church youth groups.” Linda said.
Adorned in Grace additionally funds Hands of Hope, a fellow anti-sex trafficking organization in Portland who offers mentorship programs for at-risk youth and women in the commercial sex industry as well as resources for women attempting to leave a life of exploitation.
“I have never stopped being captured by the beautiful idea of taking a wedding dress and turning it into something that incredibly blesses someone who is vulnerable and hurting.” Kate said. “Everyone deserves to be held up like a bride, beautiful and valuable. Sex trafficking takes that away and the ability to restore that with dresses is powerful. Who wouldn’t want to help them get what they want to help someone else?”
Still Taking It One Day at a Time
This is just the beginning for Adorned in Grace. If the shop receives more volunteers, Linda hopes to expand hours. Other possible ideas are opening up a warehouse to increase the number of dresses the shop can sell. She has also thought about opening up a Design Studio in Beaverton for at-risk youth.
One exciting new venture on the horizon is a second Adorned in Grace retail store that will be opening soon in Tacoma, Washington.
But just like how Adorned in Grace reached its’ success in the first place, Linda said she will be looking toward God, day-by-day, on where to go from here.
“The fun thing about the day-by-day is if you were to go back five years ago andthink, ‘The Lord wants you to build this dress shop with no money and you have to find all the dresses and brides and he’s going to use this to help woman who have been victimized,’ you would look at that and say, ‘I can’t do that there’s no way I can do that!” Linda said.
“But you just have to go day-by-day and trust him with that day.”
We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 1:3
Would you like to help Adorned in Grace fight sex trafficking? Go to adornedingrace.org to find out how to volunteer. The site also contains a list of accepted donation items and funding needs.