By Katy Frantz
Hannah Blachly has not only an inspiration to support community organizations in Ethiopia, but the means to raise the money through a business she helped create.
As she was studying nursing at Purdue University last year, her boyfriend, Riley Rapp, came to her with an idea for a philanthropic business. She jumped on board right away, and they collaborated together to start the business.
Combining Rapp’s study of entrepreneurship with his fascination with fashion, they formed a clothing line that had a greater purpose. Blachly volunteered to update any form of interaction the business would have through facebook, twitter, instagram and a blog.
Rapp’s grandma, Judy Burton, who owns a screen-printing business in Tipton, joined the team. Close friends, Benjamin Gardner and Brandon Porter, also offered their skills in technology. Even Rapp’s younger brother, Whitaker, offered to help with shipping and packaging arrangements. Hannah says the business is “definitely a team effort.”
Rapp and Blachly were ready to launch the business, but they had yet to find a cause to support or a name for the business. Both came through their close friends who invited them on a recent trip to Ethiopia.
The name of the business, Jesse G. Clothing, is inspired by the Craig family and their adopted son, Jesse Getiso. Rapp and Blachly met the Craig family at Young Life, a student ministry, in which they all served. Through volunteering together at summer camps and weekly clubs, they formed a tight bond.
Steve and Kathy Craig, who live in McCordsville, had their daughter, Alex, 10 years ago. Unable to have more kids and feeling that their family wasn’t complete, the Craigs pursued adoption. It wasn’t Plan A or Plan B, they say, but God’s plan. They worked with All God’s Children International to find an orphanage, and finally to adopt Jesse.
The close connection that Kathy felt with Ethiopia didn’t leave her after the adoption. She knew she needed to return. This past December she extended the invitation to Rapp and Blachly. They responded with an enthusiastic “yes.”
With that first step off the plane into Addis Ababa, Ethiopia came with overwhelming scents both familiar and foreign to the American nose. Yet the smell of potent spice and stench of trash littering the streets were not as vivid to them as the memory of men, women and children working to serve their community with little to no resources.
The group has poignant memories of a youth rehab center they visited during the weeklong trip. The center was a correctional facility intended to be a place for boys to be mentored, to play games and to grow. Instead, Kathy said it looked like a “mud pit in a cage” with vacant buildings that couldn’t be used due to structural damage. The boys who live there call it “a jail.” Men educated as social workers run the facility and spend every day mentoring the boys.
“What they want (the rehab center) to be is a place where there are games and soccer balls,” Rapp said. “But they don’t have any of that. They don’t have any of the resources.”
It is places like the rehab center that Rapp and Blachly plan to support through their business, Jesse G. Clothing. They formed a relationship with All God’s Children International. The business provides 50 percent of the gross product from each sale of clothing to the organization. Every two months there will be “projects” in Ethiopia that Jesse G. Clothing will support.
“I think it’s great that we get to reach out to so many different kids,” Blachly said, “Rather than focusing on one center or orphanage.”
She emphasized that though a lot of thought is put into the design and choice of clothing, the main focus is to serve the community and share that message with others.
Rapp and Blachly see the business as “a simple way for people to do big things.” Their vision is to see individuals in Hamilton County and the United States serve alongside them by spreading the word.
Anybody can help by telling a friend, a cousin, or a neighbor about Jesse G. Clothing and the work that can be done in Ethiopia through purchasing a T-shirt. That’s why on their website Rapp and Blachly consider Jessie G. Clothing a clothing line that’s “Not Just For You.”