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Cleveland’s Esperanza Threads ‘sews’ seeds of hope in new generation

Esperanza” is Spanish for “hope” and Ursuline Sr. Mary Eileen Boyle, 70, who founded the program and has been its executive director throughout much of its history, has helped inspire hope in the lives of hundr of women and men who learned in-demand skills and found employment in the sewing industry and beyond.

Blanca Martinez, 52, who came to Cleveland from San Miguel, El Salvador, in 1999, is another example of someone who has benefited. One of Esperanza Threads‘ three 21-hour-a-week sewers, Martinez has been employed for five years.

“I like sewing. We have different products always. I’m always learning,” said the mother of two adult sons and a 15-year-old daughter.

Such feelings satisfy Boyle as well as Leah Haynes, who joined Esperanza Threads in January 2018 as creative director. Haynes is responsible for clothing design and online marketing and sales through a revamped website.

The three workers, including Amal Hassan, 54, who came to Cleveland from the Palestinian territories, produce lines of baby, girls and women‘s apparel, accessories, socks and custom-designed T-shirts. Items are made of responsibly sourced organic or conventional cotton.

“We make our clothes so that they last,” explained Haynes, 25. “On one hand, we’re working to help people. On the other hand, we’re working to help the environment because fast fashion is really detrimental. So being able to produce items that are going to last a long time is important to us.”

To make it through 19 years, Esperanza Threads has had to adjust to the changing ne of the communities in need of employment. At its start, it helped women transition from prison. Later, it focused on refugees from around the world being resettled by the diocesan Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services. As the number of refugees and immigrants has declined since 2017 because of revised immigration policies, Boyle has strengthened connections with Cleveland neighborhood groups and nonprofit organizations that are in touch with city residents in need of jobs.