Local Business News on the Southern Oregon Coast
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Bree’s Foundation Upscale Resale 

By Lisa Carroll 
We here at The Shopper are very honored to feature Bree’s Foundation Upscale Resale as Business of the Week. This is the story of how it came to be, and how it is an integral part of a community of people and their loved ones who are going through breast cancer, its treatment and recovery, and sometimes, its loss. Bree’s is so much more than just a place to find affordable, stylish clothing.
Kathy Pennington is the founder of Bree’s Foundation. She and her husband Mitch have a daughter named Sabrina, or “Bree” for short. When Bree was 23 years old, she discovered a lump in her breast during a breast self exam. The lump turned out to be cancer, and at the age of 24, Bree had a mastectomy. Ironically, since Bree was considered too young to be at risk for breast cancer, her insurance would not cover the cost of a mammogram. This is a conundrum many women face, because early detection is key for recovery. If it were not for her regular breast self exams (SBE), Bree would not be with us today. 
Kathy Pennington, founder of Bree's Foundation Upscale Resale is a compassionate and tireless worker for the cause.
Kathy Pennington, founder of Bree's Foundation Upscale Resale is a compassionate and tireless worker for the cause.

After Bree’s diagnosis, subsequent surgery, and during her recovery, Kathy went through a range of emotions, as any parent does when their children are going through tremendous troubles. She felt joy as her daughter began to heal, but she also felt despair as she watched her daughter struggle through the process. She felt guilt, as if it should be her going through the cancer, not her daughter who was young and had her whole life ahead of her.

It was from the turmoil of conflicting emotions and the depths of despair that Bree’s Foundation was born in 1997. The purpose of the foundation is to assist with payment for mammograms for women with no insurance, and to provide prosthesis, bras, and head coverings for those going through treatment. Bree’s Upscale Resale shop was created as a way to raise money for the cause. There are now 4 stores in Southern Oregon. The North Bend store opened in 2009.

Susan Van Zelf is the assistant manager at the North Bend store and also serves as theSusan Van Zelf beams with joy as she works with the community on behalf of Bree's Foundation. Community Outreach Coordinator. Susan first came into Bree’s to buy an Easter outfit. Impressed not only with the quality of clothes at the store but also its mission, she offered to volunteer, and she loved it so much, she stayed. The issue of breast cancer is very close to her. “I have a sister who is a breast cancer survivor. I’m going through it with her and celebrating every day. Her survivorship is important."

Susan’s warm, joyful personality really comes through in her work, and it is easy to see how much it means to her. Susan smiles as she says “This place walks and talks encouragement, everyday. I love being here.”

You can tell from the conversations among the customers and the staff that Bree’s is about support and understanding with others who have faced breast cancer, or who have stood with their loved ones as they go through the journey. Among the talk of fashion and the fun on trying on clothes, there is lots of empathy here for the cause, and the feelings are so strong as to be palpable. People come here for camaraderie among others who know from experience what they are going through. There is lots of love. Susan shares, “There is such a good balance here, between the ability to care for people who are going through a tough time, and the education and connections needed to help save a life. And on the other hand, there is laughter and joy here, too. We do lots of good things, such as providing cute hats and wigs to wear when they are going through chemotherapy, or maybe a breast prosthesis that makes them feel balanced again, to feel attractive. These things help us to heal.”

Bree’s is known among the school districts, and organizations such as the Maslow project, as being there for students in need, too. “We want girls to be able to have a nice dress for the prom,” Susan tells me. “We want women who are getting back into the workforce to have nice outfits to wear. We work with the Zonta Club’s “Dress your Best” program, too. People around here donate business suits and dresses because they know we are involved in that, so Bree’s in North Bend does have a lot of nice clothes for the career woman.”

It is strong community support that allows Bree’s to flourish. It’s a good feeling knowing that you can shop for nice clothes while simultaneously contributing to a very positive project. And then there are the volunteers. “We could not exist without volunteers!" Susan insists. “People have different gifts and personalities, and everybody seems to find the niche where they can help out the best. Some are out in the community talking us up, and raising funds. Some work here in the store, doing laundry or pressing the clothes, putting them on racks. People donate nice clothes because they know they are supporting a good cause.”

Kathy, who had been busy talking with people in the store and helping them find what they need, chimed in. “So many people who come here to work and volunteer find that it becomes a part of them. You get a heart for people and what is going on in their lives. It is a wonderful feeling to share and to give. That is what this is all about. Giving. ‘Me’ is one word I do not like to hear, because Bree’s is US, it is OURS. Without community involvement, we would not be here. At Bree’s, nobody has to do it alone.”

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