When 25-year-old Mallory Brown headed to Peru in March, she planned to deliver clothing she collected through her business, World Clothes Line (WCL), to impoverished people in a mountain village.
When she arrived, the village wasn't there. Heavy rainfall led to landslides that destroyed it.
The 2004 (FHS) graduate founded WCL more than a year ago, with a mission to collect clothing and deliver it around the world. And today she is being recognized as the Huffington Post's Greatest Person of the Day. She is among many people who have made a difference in the lives of others.
Brown's vision for World Clothes Line emerged as she traveled the world after she earned degrees in business and French at Albion College.
In late February, that the poverty she saw in her travels inspired her to action. In January 2010, she opened the company's virtual doors, selling American Apparel clothing, silk-screened by Create My Tee, which is based in Ann Arbor.
When customers order the unique T-shirts, sweats and pants from worldclothesline.com, WCL donates an item – which Brown personally delivers – to someone in need.
She said a charity night held this past March at in Birmingham "raised a lot of money to off-set the cost of my Peru trip, which I ended up needing," she said. "Things didn't go according to plan."
Arriving during landslide season meant greater travel costs as she and the volunteers who accompanied her had to find alternate routes to get to their destination, a small village that she selected with the help of a Peruvian liaison. When they arrived, they learned villagers had been evacuated afer their homes were leveled by rocks and mud.
The WCL team – including Brown's sister, Randin, and best friend and FHS classmate Marisa Fortuna – found about 100 residents in a refugee camp, where they had been for a week, without so much as a change of clothes, Brown said.
Each received a T-shirt, sweatshirt and a pair of pants, for which they were more than grateful. "I think every person in the village gave me a kiss on the cheek," Brown said.
One of her biggest concerns was whether she would have the right sizes; that involves some guess work. Because Peruvians are generally shorter and slim, she took small and medium adult sizes, plus childrens clothing. It all worked out, she said.
A video Brown produced that documented the Peruvian delivery caught the attention of Michigan-based Moosejaw, a company that offers outdoor apparel and gear. They partnered with WCL on the sale of the "Collab T", a limited edition T-shirt made for the next delivery, to the Gili Islands in Indonesia, which Brown will make some time this winter.
Brown said the $28 shirts are no longer available in Moosejaw stores, but there may be some left on the company's website. For every one sold, of course, one will go to Indonesia.
Brown plans to leverage more collaborations with businesses, but also with groups that make mission trips around the world. And she's bringing back handmade items from the countries she visits, starting with winter hats made by Peruvian women.
"It's been a year of experimenting," Brown said. "I love it. I'm still happy I'm doing it."