ELYRIA, Ohio (AP) — Rhonda Washington has no doubts that if her granddaughter was alive today, the young girl would be the first to walk into a resale store and hunt for a new outfit to show off her style.
NaJia Boone died when she was just 8 years old.
But Washington said she will never forget how, in her granddaughter's too-short life, the girl fell in love with fashion and clothes. As such, it seems fitting that Washington, who started the Las Vegas-based Najia Diara Rayal Foundation in late 2009 after her granddaughter was accidentally shot and killed in Elyria, would open a local resale shop.
Called the Reinventing Closet, it supports the foundation's efforts.
"This has never left my heart since NaJia passed away," Washington said. "I knew I had to get money to do an after-school program to educate our young people and bring about awareness. I have to let them know there is more to life and they can be somebody."
The Reinventing Closet is the latest effort of the foundation to stay active in the community. Immediately following NaJia's death, the group started a victims of gun violence support group, began handing out free gun locks at local events and in recent years began sponsoring one senior with a complete prom package including a dress, shoes, accessories and hair styling.
Through it all, Washington said she wanted to find a local space where she could bring youngsters together for music, drama and ballet classes as well as mentoring and Bible study. She found that space in an old building.
There, the Reinventing Closet will offer gently-used clothing for women, men and children, shoes, purses and accessories at a reduced rate. Space in the back will be used for an after-school program.
"We are not looking to make a lot of money. We want to generate revenue for the after-school program, give back to the community and support NaJia's foundation," Washington said.
The Ohio Business College of Sheffield will provide interns to work as retail associates.
The Reinventing Closet's grand opening was Saturday.
Information from: The Chronicle-Telegram, http://www.chronicletelegram.com