Sackcloth & Ashes is a ministry-focused company that has exploded with growth in just nine short months of existence, putting a fresh spin on the popular one-for-one model and serving a tangible need of the homeless: blankets.
Bob Dalton, the twenty-something founder and CEO of Sackcloth & Ashes, grew up in a small town with his sister and their hardworking, single mom. His mother never took them to church, but when Dalton was in first grade and noticed his friends coming home from church with pockets full of candy, he began riding the Baptist church bus to get in on the free treats. “I was pretty open to God,” he said, “but I didn’t make any big decisions or life changes until my junior year in high school when I started going to a ministry called Young Life. My Young Life leader really invested in me and was a father figure to me. He taught me a lot about God and love, about Jesus and how to treat people—how to become a man. That was the turning point in my life, changing the trajectory of what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be.”
“While I was in high school I remember realizing, after many amazing people shared with me about the life and death of Christ, that I had to make a decision on whether or not I was going to live my life for myself, or give it away to all those who are in need of the most hope,” Dalton continued. “I knew I had to choose one or the other, but I could not turn my back on the cross and what it represented.”
Dalton committed his life to Christ in his teen years, and became a Young Life leader and pioneer after graduation. He also married his high school sweetheart Ciara. But just as Dalton’s life and ministry was beginning to thrive, his mother’s life took a sharp downward spiral, eventually leaving her homeless on the opposite side of the U.S.
“My mother was the last person I ever thought would become homeless,” Dalton said. “She is an incredible, hardworking woman who raised my sister and me on her own. She managed and waitressed in restaurants, had two college degrees, and even bought our family a house. But then her mother passed away, and not too long after that her brother passed away. She fell into a deep depression, lost her home, and pretty much everything she had.”
Eventually Dalton’s mother decided to start over and bought a one-way plane ticket to Florida, taking with her one suitcase with two pairs of interview clothes to find a new job. “She lived on beaches and benches for about a month, looking for work,” Dalton said. “Her experience taught me a huge lesson because I was always that guy who would drive by a homeless person and be like, ‘Go get a job. Take all that energy for begging and go look for work.’ But when my mom became homeless, and knowing what a hard worker she is but dealing with unfortunate circumstances, it taught me that not all choose to become homeless and some just need a second chance.”
Though his mom would not accept his help directly during this difficult time, Dalton was desperate to find a way to help others in similar situations. He began calling homeless shelters and asking them what their greatest need was. They all said the same thing: blankets.
Shortly thereafter, Sackcloth & Ashes was born. They launched in June of 2014, were picked up by Anthropologie after one month, and less than a year later have gone international, opening their market beyond the U.S. to Canada and offering six unique blanket styles. They follow the one-for-one model, but with a local spin: for each Sackcloth & Ashes blanket purchased, a blanket is donated to a homeless shelter in the purchaser's local area. The Sackcloth team is comprised of Dalton, his childhood best friend Jordan, who oversees production and shipping, and most recently, Dalton’s wife Ciara was able to quit her day job and join the team to oversee donations.
“I feel like I’m walking in a miracle,” Dalton said. “Every day [Jordan] and I look at each other and we feel like we’re living someone else’s life. When you’re able to look at someone and say, ‘This just doesn’t happen,’ that is when you know it’s God. It’s bigger than what we could have done.”
Amidst their runaway success, Dalton and his team remain focused on the heart of their ministry. “We believe in all people’s dignity,” Dalton said. “We believe that all people deserve love and respect, no matter what.”
Dalton also encourages fellow believers to view the homeless as Christ would, and admits he still struggles at times. “I speak out of my own experience,” he said. “I still have bitterness and judgment toward the homeless community sometimes as I drive by, and have to battle that. But look them in the eyes, and acknowledge their existence. Some Christians might be uncomfortable giving money, or maybe they don’t have money to give, but they can at least look at them and see them as people created in God’s image.”
Sackcloth & Ashes is giving away one of the gorgeous Teal Socality blankets (pictured above) from their new collection, this weekend on Instagram in conjunction with Deeply Rooted! Find entry details here. [GIVEAWAY CLOSED]
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