Bold Steps to Solution: Giving Closet Isn't About Me

STORY BY Sam Russell

Published: August 28, 2014

The restless sighs of those who embrace inaction is something equivalent to the hash tag phenomenon taking over American culture—it solves nothing.  All too familiar in the American landscape is yet another story of a woman living in chains.  And when we hear of such a story, we must within our own means take bold steps toward being a part of the solution.  The Giving Closet is a part of that solution. 

The Giving Closet journey is not about the founder Sam Russell, but about them—those individuals caught up in what seems to be an impossible situation.  Like the much too common abusive relationship played out in many households. Any man, woman or child can find themselves manipulated into an unhealthy scenario. Take Maryanne Parkers’ story, for example.

Maryanne is the reason why this traveling mission took flight; a passion project to re-route a portion of what we gift to our favorite celebrities and athletes to everyday women with stories of triumph. Maryanne escaped an abusive relationship years ago, taking only her broken English, two young children and tattered handbag in tow. With no car, no money and no help from her ex, Maryanne was thrust into an unforeseeable future.

Fast forward to summer of 2011.  The same time this wounded warrior was finishing her business classes with the famed Dress For Success locale in San Diego and it’s affiliates, Hollywood image-maker Sam Russell was fighting a battle of his own.

“I had just wrapped a photo shoot in the Hollywood Hills. As I was loading up my truck, I came across a pair of designer heels in my black G-Star duffle bag. You know the pair, they are colorful, irresistible, and the ones that retailers often put in storefront windows to lure you in. These shoes were the catalyst to the Giving Closet,” shares Sam from his current DC suburb home and now headquarters to the Giving Closet.  “There was this spoiled over-paid client of mine who kept hounding me for this exact pair on set, wanting to keep them after the day was done. With very little thanks for the editorial I had just secured for her tittering career, this actress wanted a parting gift. As I drove down a long and winding canyon road toward home, I thought to myself, ‘I would rather get designer shoes for women in need rather than her.’  That was my Aha! Moment and the Giving Closet was born.”

Maryanne was floored when the Giving Closet surprised her on live TV with a wardrobe upgrade valued at over $10,000 on NBC San Diego, September 1,2011.

Today Maryanne Parker is not only a business owner, but a homeowner, as well. She flashes back often to her days of no car, no drivers license, and living in a shelter. 

“Good manners will get you a good job”, proudly exclaims Maryanne from her busy post in Southern California. Manor of Manners is her business model, an international etiquette business with high-profile foreign dignitaries on her roster. Curious as too how far she could go with the etiquette business, she started from the ground up.

Maryanne could have been just another statistic, but today she is one of those well-dressed women you see in international airports across the globe. Maryanne stills sings praise to this day for the Adrianna Papell dresses that have helped her keep international doors open.  She is the epitome of moxy intertwined with a kind and wise soul.

Sam challanges each of us to find deeper meaning by asking, “Anyone can criticize someone else, but do you have what it takes to build someone up?” 


Read more about The Giving Closet here

Read more about Maryanne’s business here

Pictures and Credits: The above is Maryanne Parker; photographer for Sam Russell's headshot is Moshe Zusman- DC; and Sam Russell's sweater: c/o  Limb Factory-Karyn Hutchinson , Los Angeles




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