Congressman Louis Stokes' suits being given to rebounding homeless men

Louis Stokes' suits give homeless new syle

The late Congressman Louis Stokes was known as a sharp-dressed man.

His daughter Lori, a New York City newscaster, says, "Everything had to be pressed. Everything had to be fresh. There was, I think, a Stokes look."

Joseph Scafidi, the haberdasher /tailor who helped Stokes pick out and make his suits, said the look was "traditional, classic with a little flair. But not too much flair, just enough to look good...He was a very meticulous person."

Stokes' widow Jay and daughter Lori came up with a winning idea about how to re-purpose his suits and other parts of his wardrobe.

They are giving them to the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry.

"As a Stokes, there is a responsibility to give back, that's what was taught in our household," Lori Stokes said.

"I feel this is what he would want. He's want his clothes in Cleveland. He was C-Town's baby boy," she explained.

Stokes was a strong backer of the group's social service work, helping homeless and less fortunate individuals get their life back on track.

And the group, which started as and still is an advocacy organization, supported the community service, civil rights and anti-poverty agenda Stokes championed.

In fact, the group gave Stokes its symbolic red jacket worn by Care Team members -- ex-offenders on the road back.

Drew Genszler, LMM's CEO, said he remembers a picture of the presentation.

"I love that picture...We're glad that red coat fit into his wardrobe," he said.

The group will get about 20 of Stokes suits which, at today's prices, would cost about $1,700 apiece.

The suits will be given to men who are rebuilding their lives, working for the Ministry and preparing to go on job interviews.

Reggie Washington is honored to be the first recipient getting a Stokes suit. The 44-long suit needs some alterations and may not be a perfect fit. 

But it fits a perfect purpose.

"Not only was he a great American, he was a great citizen, a great person but he also happened to be a great African-American. Being an African male, having a role model such as Mr.'s just an honor to receive a suit from someone as distinguished as he is."

"It will put a little more pep in my step when I'm wearing it. As youngsters like to say, it will kind of 'up my swagger'..It will definitely  boost my confidence," Washington said.

And there's a more personal connection.

Washington is the nephew of Harold Washington, Chicago's first African-American mayor who was a good friend of Stokes..

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of Carl Stokes' election as the first African-American mayor of a major American city.

There will be a year-long, community-wide commemoration of the Stokes brothers' lives and legacy.

WKYC is partnering with Cuyahoga Community College and other institutions to plan events.

For more information , visit


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