MIDDLETOWN, Pa. – Kaitlin and Shane Behmer opened their high-end fashion store, Coleson Fine Clothiers, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 2013. The coronavirus pandemic, and an urge to try something new, made them decide to close in 2020.
That decision has benefited Penn State Harrisburg's Career Closet, which allows students to select a professional outfit from a new or gently used collection free of charge. The Behmers have donated more than $100,000 worth of luxury men's and women's dress clothes.
“We are thrilled to have been able to make the donation,” Kaitlin Behmer said. “We hope that as things start to get back to normal, the students will be able to get to choose and use the clothing.”
The Behmers are avid Penn State fans. Kaitlin graduated from Penn State in 2010, attending the Harrisburg campus, but her connection goes deeper than that. She was diagnosed with leukemia at 19 years old and considers herself a proud Four Diamonds kid.
Shane's family held season tickets to Penn State's football and wrestling games for some 40 years.
So, when Bill Weik, a member of Penn State Harrisburg's Board of Advisers, approached them about donating their clothing, there was no hesitation.
“It was an easy, yes!” Kaitlin said. “We loved the idea of college students getting to use our clothing for interviews and first jobs.”
Kathryn Rush, recent associate director of the Kunkel Career Center, said the clothing “would be a dream for most professionals to own, let alone a student trying to enter the world of work.”
The Career Closet, which opened in 2019, has seen a steady increase in the need for clothing donations. The Career Closet gave away 114 suits before the pandemic hit and has been offering some by appointment during COVID. It should reopen fully in fall 2021.
“Being able to offer such tailored attire like this to students in need will certainly open up doors and provide opportunities that could otherwise be a challenge or off limits,” Rush said. “The Behmers are truly helping students to break down barriers and increase their preparedness and confidence.”
Gifts like the Behmers’ will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.