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November 01, 2009

Industry with Heart

Offering Hope through Comfort

by Lauri Dodd


Private Quarters

PQ-Corporate-Staff.jpg

In their own unique way, Private Quarters is helping women in need sleep a little easier.


For the first time in years, she finally felt safe. Had it not been for the darkness all around her, you would’ve seen her visibly relax and even the slightest hint of a smile.

In an instant, everything had changed for Missy and her young son, Max. She was at a crossroads, and had taken a brave step forward. Looking back, she certainly never thought she would find herself in a battered women’s shelter in need of a helping hand. Who knows what turns life will take?

Somehow, she just knew life would be better now. Although in this moment, exactly what it was that had given her this newfound hope, she couldn’t quite say.

Maybe it was the small team of friendly faces who welcomed her earlier that day and stood ready to help her adjust to her new surroundings. Maybe it was the relief of knowing that she and Max were out of harm’s way. Or just maybe it was something as simple as the brand-new velvety soft comforter that swaddled her in safety.

It’s funny how something that seems so commonplace to one person can signify a turning point for someone else. That is just what this day had become for Missy and Max. And so now, surrounded by these people who would never know how much they had helped her, Missy felt overwhelmed with emotion. More than anything else—she had hope.

towels

A Mission Begins

It’s for women like Missy that the people of Private Quarters do what they do. The young direct selling company offers high-quality bed and bath linens and accessories. A couple of years ago, as they were making plans to ramp up for the next product season, the executive team realized they had a problem.

They had a surplus of brand-new, perfectly good items that had not been sold—that needed to be cleared out to make room for the next year’s products. As the group brainstormed ideas, one suggestion won the hearts of the entire room.

“When we considered the range of products we had to offer, such as bed linens and pillows, the idea of donating these things to battered and homeless women’s shelters seemed like a perfect match,” says Jeff Stroud, President, COO and Co-Founder of Private Quarters. “Very few organizations need those particular items more than shelters do. And it allowed us the opportunity to start a program where we could feel good about giving back to the community—that our consultants could participate in across the country. So it was a win-win situation for everyone.”

Private Quarters' Comfortwear

Helping Our Neighbors

The Private Quarters Share the Comfort program is indeed unique, much different from the typical giving campaign. That’s because Share the Comfort is truly a nationwide effort. Consultants who host parties that earn more than $500 get to choose a shelter in their local area that will benefit. The corporate office then takes products equaling 15 percent of the proceeds from that party and donates them to the chosen shelter.

It is an authentic grass-roots effort that gives consultants an opportunity to help people in need right in their own backyard. It helps put a face on the problem of domestic violence and has had a much greater effect than if the products were shipped off to some faraway place.

“Our leaders get to meet with the people at the shelter and in some cases get to unpack the boxes and help to distribute the donated bedding and linens throughout the facility,” Stroud says. “It gives them a chance to see firsthand how their work is making a difference in the lives of others.”

Shipping thousands of dollars’ worth of products to different locations throughout the country is no small task. It creates a lot of extra effort for the corporate office, but they welcome the work. “We would not have it any other way,” Stroud says. “It’s worth the effort for our leaders to know what shelter they are working for when they have these parties. We believe that one-on-one interaction can help establish a bond that will last a lifetime.”

No Better Time

The timing of the Share the Comfort program could not have been better. Whenever the economy takes a turn for the worse, the incidence of domestic violence begins to rise sharply. And now is no different. Unfortunately, there are more people who need help than ever, and fewer resources available to provide those services.

Without a doubt, shelter employees are feeling the strain, having to do more with less. “Shelter programs are overwhelmed right now,” says Sue Coats, Executive Director of Turning Point, a women’s shelter in Michigan. “The donations from Private Quarters have really been a welcome sight for us—very much appreciated; we can’t thank them enough for all they have done. We can only hope that others out there follow their lead.”

The positive effects are being felt across the country in communities big and small. “By allowing their consultants to choose a local shelter for their donations, this program has given us an opportunity to educate people in our own community about the widespread problem of domestic violence,” Coats says. “As a result, not only have we been able to increase awareness,
but we also have a new group of people interested in helping out, and now we can bring these people in and involve them in long-term solutions.”

Jeff Stroud, Co-founder, President and COO of Private Quarters.

Leading the Way

Private Quarters consultants have really latched on to this program and responded in a bigger way than the corporate team could have imagined. In only two years since it has been up and running, the company has donated $100,000 worth of product to shelters across the nation.

While some of the outcomes were obvious right from the start—like a boost in sales, growing businesses and bigger bonuses for consultants—there were also a few surprises that have been an added benefit to all involved.

“Share the Comfort gives consultants a sense of pride in their company—that it is not all about money or being successful,” Stroud says. “These are all good things that we have been able to accomplish with the Share the Comfort program. And people want to support a company that empowers them to do good things.”

Jeff Stroud, performing a specially written song at Private Quarters’ national convention.

Singing Their Praises

Before he became a co-founder of a leading direct selling company, Stroud was a music major in college. As he saw the benefits of the Share the Comfort program stack up, he was moved to respond in the best way he knew how.

“This is a very emotional issue, and I felt like it deserved an emotional response,” Stroud says. “I still compose music on the side as a hobby, and I was inspired to write songs to honor the women who are struggling to start new lives for themselves and their families.”

As he perused the lengthy list of local shelters that each consultant wanted to help, two names stood out to Stroud: Hope’s Door in Texas and Turning Point in Michigan. He set out to write songs with those themes in mind. “I wanted to highlight the transformation that happens when a woman makes positive steps to change her life for the better,” he says. “I want her to know she is not alone. There are a lot of people out there who care and are willing to help.”

Private Quarters has a growing number of consultants who have raised thousands of dollars for the Share the Comfort program, and the corporate team wanted to recognize their efforts. “We induct the leaders who have done the most to help others into the Founder’s Circle,” Stroud says. “And it is just another way to let them know we appreciate all they do.”

At the national convention last year, Stroud invited the Founder’s Circle members up on stage, along with the Executive Director of Hope’s Door, to dedicate his new song and video in a moving tribute. “There were a lot of tears and a lot of emotion,” he says.

This year, Turning Point took top honors, and Sue Coats was thrilled to be a part of the festivities. “It was uplifting to hear the song inspired by our agency and to see so many people take up the cause of helping women,” she says. “It was an experience I will never forget.”

Empowering Effects

Statistics say that one in three women will be affected by domestic violence. The toll it takes on their lives is enormous. And whether we realize it or not, the effects extend beyond the individual woman and her family. “Domestic violence is a communitywide concern,” Coats says. “We all need to do what we can to help each other bring an end to the problem. When a woman comes to us, the only space she has to herself here is her bed. By making it luxurious, she can have something to feel proud of—to call her very own.”

Most of the time, people give used blankets, sheets and towels to shelters, which is appreciated, but in the past couple of years, Private Quarters has really raised the bar when it comes to donations. “We have been spoiled by the items Private Quarters has given us,” Coats says. “These are high-quality bed linens that we would never have access to otherwise. Our women get to have something nice and be pampered a little bit. And it is a great feeling for us to be able to see them smile.”
In fact, Share the Comfort has been responsible for donating so much that, in many cases, there is an excess that is put to good use. “We have been able to give sheets, towels and blankets to women as gifts when they leave the shelter to start a new life on their own,” Coats says.

Even Coats, who has dedicated her life and career to helping others, never ceases to be amazed. “One woman told me a few years ago that she was having the best Christmas she had ever had,” she says. “And it seemed a little surreal at the time, since we were celebrating the holiday in a shelter, but she had never had someone take care of her like we were able to that day. It proved to me that the little things really do mean so much.”

The Share the Comfort program has grown phenomenally over the past two years and shows no signs of slowing down. “After all that these women have been through, we are happy to be able to help in our own small way,” Stroud says. “That we might be able to help them get a good night’s sleep is such a wonderful thing, and we are so honored to play a part in that.”