“I thank God every day for the opportunity to work there,” Santa Castillo said.
Castillo works at the Alta Gracia factory in the Dominican Republic making collegiate apparel. Why is she so thankful to be working for the company? The job has taken her from a one-room house without indoor plumbing or a kitchen, to a two-bedroom home with both a kitchen and bathroom. She and her family no longer go to sleep hungry, but are able to eat three meals each day. This new-found fortune is due to the foundation of Alta Gracia’s business—to make college gear while paying its workers a living wage.
Alta Gracia employees are paid three-and-a half times the average salary of apparel workers in the Dominican Republic. This wage improves the lives of Alta Gracia employees, providing pay for adequate food, clean water, clothing, shelter, health care, child care, and education.
Alta Gracia apparel is sold in Barnes & Noble College (BNC) bookstores across the country. BNC executives Joel Friedman, Patrick Gross and Joel Kriner had the opportunity to visit the factory and meet the workers and their families.
“We were given a tour of Santa’s former home – a small one-room house,” said Joel Friedman, Vice President of General Merchandising & Store Construction/Design for Barnes & Noble College. “There was no bathroom, so the family had to use a neighbor’s down the street. By contrast, her new home has two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a working kitchen. To see the impact this project has had on people’s lives is quite moving and truly inspirational.”
Barnes & Noble College orders more than half of the products made by Alta Gracia, which are sold in over 200 of our bookstores, including Harvard, University of Delaware, University of Pennsylvania, University of Albany-SUNY and Penn State.
“This is not a buying and selling relationship. This is about changing people’s lives. Our goal is to grow the business so more workers will be needed – and more lives can be changed for the better,” Friedman said.
So with every Alta Gracia t-shirt or hoodie you buy, know you are directly supporting the workers and families of Alta Gracia.