Colvin Cleaners, an 89-year young WNY dry cleaner, is no stranger to stepping into action when the Western New York community needs help. Commitment to community has always been a key part of the Colvin Cleaners’ mission. In fact, three generations of the Billoni family have been running our annual charitable community programs for years.
In a nutshell, the programs consist of Coats 4 Kids, where thousands of coats are distributed each winter to children and families in need. Then, there’s Gowns for Prom, a spring-time distribution of prom gowns to students who could not otherwise afford them at a three-day giveaway event on the stage at Shea’s Performing Arts Center. For both programs, Colvin Cleaners collects, cleans and distributes items to the WNY community. The dry cleaner also works with Veterans One Stop to provide tailored suits for veterans that can be cleaned and altered at Colvin Cleaners free of charge. Additionally, they support 400+ nonprofits annually via gift cards and donations. It is safe to say that charity runs through the veins of Colvin Cleaners.
When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the country in mid-March, dry cleaners were deemed an essential business in New York State as cleaning and sanitizing clothing and uniforms for first responders and hospital employees was a necessity. Unfortunately, Colvin Cleaners still had to lay off a number of their employees, due to lack of volume, including most of their tailoring staff.
When it became apparent that face masks were a vital safety item during this pandemic, the team at Colvin Cleaners created an innovative program called #GetAMaskGiveAMask to manufacture and provide free washable, reusable face masks to their customers and nonprofit agencies in WNY, including nursing homes and group homes, which needed them most.
Colvin Cleaners was able to bring back their tailors and put them on the payroll to make the masks, working on their sewing machines from home. Suddenly, as word spread that they were distributing free face masks, the phones lit up with requests. Colvin Cleaners was able to quickly make a company decision to fulfill all of the requests for the masks. As of June 1st, 2020 they have now distributed 26,000+ masks to WNY homes and nonprofits.
To achieve that goal, Colvin Cleaners immediately created an on-line ordering system through the website at www.colvincleaners.com/masks and a delivery system utilizing their FREE Pick Up & Delivery Service for dry cleaning and laundry. The greater challenge was fulfilling the overwhelming number of masks suddenly needed. However, the generosity of volunteers in this community of Good Neighbors came through once again. Volunteers, who usually donate their time and skills to the Gowns for Prom program, cancelled this year because of COVID-19, have been lending a hand to sew masks along with others who responded to Colvin Cleaners’ call for help. The tailors and volunteers were all provided with the materials and instructions at no cost from the Colvin Cleaners’ management team.
“Our goal with this initiative was simple--we want our customers and their families to feel safe during this challenging period,” says Paul Billoni, Owner & President of Colvin Cleaners.
The Colvin Cleaners store at 2375 Elmwood Avenue in Kenmore continues to be open, but it is encouraging customers to use their FREE, No Touch, Pick Up & Delivery Service to obtain their masks, as well as their regular dry cleaning and laundry orders. Customers or new customers can sign up on the website.