Men’s Wearhouse Drive Benefits Chanlyut Program
by Cook Inlet Tribal Council
More than 300 suits were donated in Anchorage this year to the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive to benefit Cook Inlet Tribal Council’s (CITC) Chanlyut program, where men use the suits to transform their lives.
Each July, Men’s Wearhouse partners with more than 150 non-profit organizations to collect and distribute professional clothing. During the past six years, Men’s Wearhouse has collected over 650,000 donations. To recognize each donor’s generosity, the store offers 50 percent off donors’ next purchase for every suit received.
The donations can be transformative for more than men’s appearances. When Kevin Carlson, a participant of CITC’s Chanlyut program, showed up for his first day in court wearing the suit he received through the suit drive, the judge looked him up and down, then asked, “Is Mr. Carlson here yet?”
“He thought I was my own attorney!” Carlson exclaims.
It wasn’t just the suit contributing to the judge’s perspective — it was the attitude that came with the suit.
“Wearing a nice suit gives the men confidence in themselves and makes them feel important,” said Bill Tsurnos, program director for CITC’s Chanlyut program. “They look in the mirror and they don’t just see themselves; they see what they can become.”
Chanlyut helps men develop the life skills they need and prepares them for work as they begin a new life after facing the challenges of addiction, homelessness, and/or reentering society after incarceration.
For many Chanlyut participants, the suit they receive through this effort represents the first suit they have ever worn. As Kevin Carlson appears in court to gain the right to see his two daughters, he feels his suit helps him command respect.
“The judge looks at me and sees someone who’s serious about what he’s doing,” he explains. “My suit demonstrates that I’m here for business. When I put on this suit, I feel like I am unstoppable.”