Do What Makes You Hatpy!
As women, we do a lot of things to make us feel good about ourselves. We may purchase an incredible, slimming new outfit, take a long, luxurious bath, buy beauty products that make us look, feel and smell glamorous but how often do we do something that makes us feel good while helping others? More specifically, how often do we accentuate our simple pleasures in life to do good for others?
While growing up in Chicago, Illinois – Archie Burkel realized her love of hats around the age of 10. She loved the style, the look, the confidence and feel that hats gave her. Not to mention, the need wear hats to keep warm during the frigid Chicago winters! Her love of hats was magnified when she moved to the South, first to Atlanta, Georgia then to Charleston, South Carolina. As she walked down its historic streets, she received many compliments on her hats and personal style and soon realized that there was something to wearing hats – It brought up conversations, smiles, and positive attention. The attention was all the more welcome because Archie and her husband had recently moved there and did not know anyone.
But what could possibly be meaningful about just wearing hats? After all, she knew she did not want to make them or sell them. She was jolted out of her quandary when her husband suggested that she take the name and email address of women who were captivated by her hats. Burkel agreed with his suggestion and began building a contact list of like-minded, hat adoring women. Initially, she did not know where the information gathering would lead, but Burkel began to realize a group of dynamic women wearing hats would make a more powerful statement and impact than a lone woman wearing a hat
She soon had enough names to float an inaugural event for her budding group. What could be more appropriate for elegant Ladies in hats than tea at the premier Hotel in town, Charleston Place. In addition, Burkel also reached out to the fashion editor of a local Charleston newspaper, Judy Watts of the Post and Courier, to see if Watts had interest in covering Burkel’s gathering. Watts was very fascinated in the concept and sent a photographer to cover the event, which gathered 18 attendees. Two months after the event occurred, the article ran in the Post and Courier and from that press coverage, 100 additional women contacted Burkel and expressed interest in joining The Hat Ladies and attending her events.
Burkel knew this was her opportunity! The power of the press was on her side and she received such amazing feedback, she knew she must go on with this idea. She began organizing a luncheon and basically pulled the target date out of a hat – September 10th, 2001. Forty-eight women attended and the event was another complete success!
The next day, the 9/11 attack occurred on our home soil and life as we knew it changed forever. At that moment, everything fell into place and took a whole new meaning. Something that began so innocently was showing signs of having the potential to be a vital force in the Charleston community and far beyond. Burkel felt that the base principles were reinforced in what people desired - A strong need to be positive, confident and to feel good about oneself while helping those in need.
Burkel’s mission and vision of what she wanted to accomplish was clear: Fashion and compassion; camaraderie and community service. Thus the mantra of The Hat Ladies became: When you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you do good.
The Hat Ladies can be described as a vibrant group of women who love to have fun, dress stylishly, and be social while giving back the community. The “hatitude” of giving back and volunteerism within The Hat Ladies spreads far and wide and can be viewed as a band of ‘Ghost Busters’ (Who you gonna call?) in times of need and support from volunteering at American Red Cross house tours and Meals on Wheels events to hat decorating twice a month alongside ailing children at the Medical University of South Carolina. The Hat Ladies are not fundraisers but assistants and volunteers at community and Non-Profit fundraising events adding a touch of class, elegance, a pleasurable hatitude, and positive energy.
What does it take to be a Hat Lady you ask? First and foremost, an absolute love of wearing hats and second, the will to be a proactive, productive, and positive role model in the Charleston community. The Hat Ladies organization is open to women of all ages and currently HAS members from 13 years old to 89 years young.
Burkel’s philosophy is, “Think of what you love and go for it. If there are groups out there doing something similar, join them. If not, form your own. When you put yourself out there, go for it; you never know where it may lead. The turtle never gets anywhere unless it sticks its neck out.
Near Christmas time last year, The Hat Ladies unknowingly started a movement of care rooted deeply in the Charlotte area. One chance moment and meeting would impact the lives of thousands and define what their mission really portrays.
Burkel was leaving a restaurant with a friend when a gentleman asked for directions to local drug store. As their answer became increasingly confusing, Burkel volunteered to drive the gentleman to his destination. Burkel asked her friend to take a good look at the man in case something happened, as giving a ride to a perfect stranger was not something she had ever done.
After some conversation, Burkel learned the gentleman had traveled from Charlotte to be at the bedside of his friend's 17 year old daughter, who was aggressively fighting leukemia. Burkel asked the man what the girls name was and he said it was Emily Rose. It was obvious after conversing with the gentleman; Emily Rose was not expected to survive. Burkel gave him her business card and asked for him to update her on how Emily’s condition evolved.
Ten days later, Burkel received an email that Emily had passed. Burkel’s first wrote a poem, comparing Emily Rose to a flower that bloomed and died all too soon. But she knew she could do more. With such a beautiful name she couldn’t think of a better tribute than to have a rose named after her.
Burkel searched ‘Emily Rose’ online and found a Company called, “Payton’s Pretties” produced a small silk rose with swarovksi crystals named “Emily.” She contacted the owner, and together they created a larger version in purple, Emily’s favorite color. They named it The Emily Lauren Rose.
The Hat Ladies wear this stunning purple rose in their annual Easter Promenade through the streets of Charleston - The very streets where the connection with Emily Rose was paved. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Emily roses goes to the ASCEND Foundation, an Organization dedicated to eradicating cancer that Burkel found in a magazine. With their help, she established The Emily Rose Initiative. Coincidentally there are a variety of other products that bear the name “Emily Rose;” Burkel is working to bring them on board.
Coming full circle, in March of 2009, a member of The Hat Ladies, returned home from an extended stay in rehab facility. She was reading The Hat Ladies newsletter and discovered The Emily Rose Initiative and its tie to the ASCEND Foundation. She practically fell off her chair, since "ASCEND" stands for her daughter, who died a number of years ago – The ‘Anne Scandalios Ends Cancer Now Directive.’ Unknowingly, The Hat Ladies were tied to a cause which was created by one of their own members.
What does this article teach us? It is truly how you take it. It could be taken as initiative to follow your passion, to get out of a rut in your life, to pursue a new path, to take a chance at something that scares you, to embrace and look deeply into the people you come across, to seize opportunities that might change others’ lives, or to find confidence in yourself that you may be lacking. For Burkel, it was about truly finding her passion through what excites her: Making a difference in her community while feeling great about herself. At the drop of a hat, everything just fell into place.
“The traces of what I am doing now have been there all along”, says Burkel. And she believe those traces are there for everyone. Think back to what captured you as a young child. What was it that you could spend hours doing then…and still enjoy doing now?
Burkel found a hat was much more than a head covering. She is far from alone in this regard. Lance Armstrong rode a bicycle to fame; Mrs. Fields basked cookies into a fortune. Suddenly that simple object wasn’t so simple. There was substance to it.
You, too, can create something spectacular if you follow your bliss, look outside the (hat) box, and toss your hat in the ring.
To me? It is the smallest of deeds, what many people may view as miniscule and insignificant, which can make the biggest difference. Often, people pre-judge their ideas as stupid or feel as though others will dismiss their ideas entirely and keep their creative ideas and design under THEIR HAT. Little do they know, it is hindering themselves and the natural progressions of our universe.
Burkel accents her views perfectly, “The world “try” is the best word in the dictionary. Never dismiss something as being stupid.” You would be amazed at what you can pull out of your hat.
For more information on The Hat Ladies, please visit www.hatladies.org.
To contact Archie Burkel for public speaking engagements or for information on launching a Hat Ladies chapter near you, please email email@example.com. She promises to give you something to hang your hat on.
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