How a Leap of Faith Keeps Paying it Forward


Mary Ann Cox and Joan Velsmid
Photos by Marie Thomas
Makeup by Alex Lucas

In 1996, two women known for having a constant flow of solution-based ideas came together to solve a problem that had immediate and long-term benefit for Fayette County.

On a Wednesday afternoon, Mary Ann Cox, Director of Religious Education at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Peachtree City, tapped one of the 4th and 5th-grade teachers and said, “Can I pick your brain?”

“Sure,” Joan Velsmid replied.

“You have a real estate background, correct?” Mary Ann asked

“Yes,” Joan, whose real estate license was two years old, answered.

“And don’t you have some business background?” Mary Ann continued.

“I have some business background,” replied the woman who four years earlier had 16 direct reports and 5,000 people working for her.

“Let me show you my closet,” Mary Ann said.

She opens a door, and black bags pour out.

“People bring stuff to me and I don’t know what to do with it,” Mary Ann explained.  “I want to open a thrift store. And I want to be able to sell this stuff reasonably.”

She needed a storefront. And a partner.

“Let’s start driving around town and see what we can come up with,” Joan suggested.

Two locations, countless donations and volunteers, and 25,000 sq. ft. later, many people have been able to find gently used items at huge savings, and more than $6.5 million has been awarded to local nonprofits.

Read on to find out what drives two women who’ve made a life of responding when they see a need in their community.

“Over the years many thousands of people were cared for through Mary Ann Cox and Joan Velsmid’s initiative in starting up the Clothes Less Traveled project. They encouraged many volunteers to help every single week to make what they do possible and to share a smile with a neighbor in need. These are all incredible people!

Clothes Less Traveled

After opening their doors, I am sure they would have never imagined seeing this organization grow up to be able to support so many people in need. For this, I am deeply grateful as are all of our parishioners at Holy Trinity parish.

Clothes Less Traveled has become an important aspect of our community, and their legacy will live on. I am writing this primarily to those who have supported the project with their time, talent and treasure. And so I am very thankful to Mary Ann and Joan for their sacrifices to make to make our community a better and more loving place to live. As Pastor of Holy Trinity, I thank all people for their continued support of this wonderful outreach program.”– Fr John Murphy

Find the stories here:

Fayette Woman March, 2019
Mary Ann Cox – Photo by Marie Thomas- Make up by Alex Lucas

Click here to read Mary Ann’s story:  Mary Ann Cox:  You Gotta Love People

Fayette Woman March, 2019

Fayette Woman March, 2019
Joan Velsmid- Photo by Marie Thomas- Make up by Alex Lucas

Click here to read Joan’s story:  Joan Velsmid: You Gotta Love Your Family

Joyce Beverly

I was local when local wasn't cool. After more than three decades as a community journalist, I've found my dream job as publisher of Fayette Woman.

March 16, 2019