If you’ve watched Dance Moms, been to the ballet or if you are or were a dancer yourself, you’ve seen or worn those incredible costumes used for performances and competitions. Have you ever thought about what happens to those costumes when the music stops? Amanda and Allie Milberg, two sisters from Jericho, New York, did. They quickly realized that those costumes shoved in the back of their closets could make a positive difference in the lives of others, and From Our Hearts To Your Toes was born. With a mission to “bring smiles, uplift spirits, and build confidence by collecting, donating, and distributing gently used costumes and shoes to dance programs serving children in challenging environments,” Allie and Amanda, who have collected and donated costumes to organizations like The Fresh Air Fund and Boys and Girls Club, are a true inspiration.
Tell us about yourselves. Where do you go to school? How did you get started in dance?
Amanda: I can’t remember my life without dance, partially because I started at age 3, but also because it has been such an essential part of my life. Growing up, I competitively danced at Jam Dance and Fitness center for 15 years. The studio quickly became my second home and the reason why I love to dance so much. I am now a rising junior at Colgate University studying Computer Science and Mathematics. During my first year at Colgate I joined FUSE Dance Company, a student run modern dance company.
Allie: I can’t remember my life without dance since I also started at the age of 3. The studio became a huge safe haven for me to let me express my emotions, and the teachers became role models for me and a part of my life since they watched me grow up from 3 to 18. I just graduated Lehigh University and am now taking a gap year as I apply for Physician Assistant school for the fall of 2017.
What inspired you to found From Our Hearts To Your Toes?
Since we both grew up as competitive dancers, each competition season brought 5-10 dances along with many new costumes for both of us. After storing the costumes as memories for many years, we quickly realized the potential these gently-used costumes had for aspiring, underprivileged dancers. With an abundance of costumes between the two of us, we searched for different places who were willing to accept them. It was clear that there were a lot of dancers who were in need of costumes, but even more who were willing to donate their old ones.
What is it like to found an organization with your sister? What do you do when you disagree?
Naturally, as sisters, there are definitely times where we have differing opinions on how to run From Our Hearts to Our Toes. Although sometimes we butt heads, we have realized that together we make a great team. One of us is really good at organizing and categorizing the donations, where the other helps with the more technical behind the scenes stuff. 6 years later, we believe we have found the perfect balance in which both our specialties can be used. We are also always in constant communication with each other, keeping each other updated on what is going on so we are on the same page.
Amanda, is it challenging to balance growing your organization with being a college student?
It has definitely been a challenge to grow our organization when I am at school. This is mainly due to the fact that most of our organization requires me to be hands-on in Jericho, which I am not; however, I found that the busiest times that people are donating and need costumes is during the holiday season and recital season which usually happens in June when I am home. So when I get home, I usually have a lot of people and costumes waiting for me! If anything, spending time away makes me realize the potential of our organization. It really needs someone whose full-time job is growing From Our Hearts To Your Toes!
Allie, do you plan on staying involved now that you graduated?
I think it will be easier for me to be more involved now that I graduated just due to being back in New York rather than being in Pennsylvania. When I was at school, it was hard making drop-off and pick-up times using my mom as the middle man and trying to sync schedules to meet up. Now, living in NYC and potentially living in Long Island, if that’s where I get into graduate school, I’ll be able to be close and “take back” the pick-up and drop-offs all year from my mom who was helping us while we were both away.
Are you worried that it will be hard to make the time?
Although studying will be a full time job in itself, being at From Our Hearts To Your Toes is a stress reliever for me and will get my mind off my studies and focus on doing something for others which always makes me feel better and clears my mind. When I am stressed and don’t want to talk to anyone, I love going to the charity and organizing, unpacking, and packing costumes.
What do you love about dance?
What we love about dance is the way it makes us feel. The way you can connect to music, melodies, lyrics and choreography has always made us better dancers and people. Dance teaches you discipline, team-work, and many other things that help so many other things in life.
What is the most rewarding part about what you are doing?
Walking into these programs with big bags of costumes and having the dancers run over and smile and become excited about their performance makes everything worth it. We even have dancers who come to our place to look for costumes and decide two days before their performance that they are going to spend every second in the studio making up a new dance that goes with a specific costume that they love. Seeing the passion in their eyes and their excitement never gets old.
What are your biggest business challenges?
We could have never dreamed that our charity would still be thriving the way it has 6 years later and that it programs nationwide would need our costumes. So right now our biggest challenge would probably be having funds to ship the costumes to these programs that are in other states that aren’t just driving distance in the tri-state area.
What’s your favorite guilty pleasure?
Amanda: Binge watching TV in bed
Allie: Binge watching “Grey’s Anatomy” with my two dogs in bed.
Describe each other in three words.
Amanda: Allie is motivated, organized, and driven.
Allie: Amanda is passionate, hard-working and creative
Do you have a favorite quote or line from a song?
We don’t really have a favorite quote or line from a song, but our duet song while we were competing was “The Special Two” by Missy Higgins, so dancing together in my last year of competing as a senior in high school was a really special moment for us.
How can we help?
We need additional programs that need our costumes, and in order to ship costumes nationwide we need funding. Word of mouth is how From Our Hearts To Your Toes has been successful for 6 years, so thank you so much for featuring us and for more information you can go to our website or Facebook page.