Swag the Bag Returns for its 4th annual event

Published 2:13 pm Tuesday, November 7, 2023

By BARTON PERKINS | Staff Writer

PELHAM – A series of dresses made from plastic trash bags and other synthetic materials were modeled by their designers at Second Shift’s fourth annual Swag the Bag.

“Tammy and Tim Spence are the founders of Second Shift,” said Second Shift vice-president, Stephanie Byrd “Tammy really saw the need for kids in foster care, and they started Second Shift because they wanted to make a difference.”

An estimated 65 percent of children aging out of foster care will find themselves homeless and often without a job. They also lack the necessary support systems to help them transition into college or the workforce. Second Shift was founded to help bridge this gap and does so by providing youth aging out of foster care with mentors and help navigate their lives.

“We got started because I was a therapist in residential facilities for young people in DHR’s custody and saw their plight as they aged out, which was horrible and shocking,” Tammy Spence said. “They just didn’t have resources or support.”

Second Shift has existed for six years, and they have helped dozens of young people who have recently left foster care find homes, jobs and start a new chapter of their lives. Swag the Bag may have only been around for the last four years, but it is already one of Second Shift’s most significant fundraising events.

“We wanted to do something that reflected our mission,” Spence said. “Something that shares the story of youth in foster care. Nothing really says that as strongly as the trash bag.”

Often, youth in foster care situations don’t have backpacks or suitcases to carry their clothes and other personal belongings in. They are given black trash bags to pack away their belongings.

“We wanted to reframe that image, the trash bag, into something strong and beautiful,” Spence said.

Swag the Bag is a collaborative event between Second Shift and a variety of local college and high school art programs. Students take trash bags and use them to design and create elegant gowns out of plastic. These dresses are first displayed to the public on mannequins and then donned by their creators and shown off in a runway walk. Along with the fashion show, the event includes a silent auction that helps raise money for Second Shift’s different initiatives.

“We have a fundraising goal of $10,000 for the event,” Spence said. “Every penny of that goes to young people needing our assistance.”

Swag the Bag took place on Friday, Nov. 3, and by all accounts was a massive success both in raising funds and bringing greater community awareness to the plight of youth aging out of foster care.