Barbara Roth, mother of Tara Savin, holds Tara’s jacket in Tara’s Closet Photo Courtesy of Kim Margolis, JFS
Tara Savin was a bright and talented young woman who battled bipolar disorder symptoms perhaps since the 6th grade. She attended the private school Kingswood Oxford and then it was on to Boston University where she double majored in International Studies and Women’s studies. She went on to receive a Master’s in Mass Communication where she went to work for Town and County magazine in New York City as a junior editor. She also received another Master’s in social work and did an internship at Jewish Family Services in West Hartford. At age 38, Tara lost her life-long battle with bipolar disorder.
Honoring Tara’s Mission
Her mother Barbara Roth saw a need in the community when she looked at JFS patrons coming from the food bank. She wondered how these people were going to clothe themselves. An idea was born. Tara had always loved fashion so she decided to start a place where people could go to get free clothing for different situations like job interviews, jobs, or other events.
Run out of a Hartford area synagogue’s social hall, Tara’s Closet accepts monetary donations and ones of gently used clothing. They run it like a store with changing rooms to boot, except everything is given to people in need, JFS clients or people they’ve heard about who need help. They’ve helped the influx of Puerto Ricans who have come to Connecticut after the hurricane. They even gave prom dresses and warm clothing to Bulkeley high school students. A labor of love, the closet is an all-volunteer endeavor. Other Connecticut communities have asked JFS how to start something like Tara’s Closet. If they can’t use a donated item, they give it to another charity. They gave Rev. Stephen Camp jackets for people in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Hartford.
A Mission to Change the Conversation around Mental Illness
Tara’s Closet has a two-part mission, the first being to cloth people in need, the main reason is to get people talking about mental illness and erase the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide through sharing personal stories. They host events like the panel discussion they held at Kingswood Oxford last year with Jenna Bush Hager, Risa Sugarman and others with stories of mental health. For 2018, this May, they plan to have Jenna Hager back as well as Patrick Kennedy.
“Jewish Family Services is a safe place to come and talk,” said Barbara Roth, Founder of Tara’s Closet. “There is nothing to be ashamed of. We’re trying to remove a bad shroud [of stigma] for familes and for people who suffer can find help.”
The educational events such as the May 17 event with Patrick Kennedy are not a fundraiser but meant for educating people about mental health issues. By keeping the cost per ticket low, they attracted more than 600 people and even some local media. This year some of the corporate sponsors include: Hoffman Auto Group, DataMail, Hartford Hospital, CT Children’s Medical Center, Fierston Financial, Simsbury Bank, Bessemer Trust, United Healthcare, Weinstein Mortuary and others. Sponsorship opportunities are still available for the May 17, 2018 event at Kingswood Oxford school.
Last year, they held a salon at the West Hartford JCC airing the film “Screenagers” for teens and parents to discuss social media, bullying and suicide. They also held a discussion of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.
A little more about Jewish Family Services of West Hartford
JFS helps all ages and stages of people affected by mental health issues and mental illness. Through counseling, on-site medication management, financial coaching, Jets employment Schmoozers, a job searching group, a Kosher food pantry, parent education programs, services and programs for older adults, Holocaust Survivor’s program, services for people with developmental disabilities, and more, they offer services and programs to serve the whole community.
If you would like more information about events, JFS, or to donate money, time, or clothing to Tara’s Closet, please call (860)236-1927 or visit their web site at www.jfshartford.org.