Alex Trebek, the late host of Jeopardy!, passed away on November 8th, 2020, at the age of 80, after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Now his son, Matthew Trebek, is honoring one of his father’s last wishes by giving away his clothing so that it can be put to good use.
There were 300 neckties, 58 dress shirts, 25 polo shirts, 15 belts, 14 suits, and nine sports coats in the shipment that arrived at the Doe Fund in New York City in mid-January, along with some sweaters, some shoes, and a couple of coats.
The Doe Fund is a non-profit organization that provides housing, job counseling, training, and work opportunities for about 800 men each year who have dealt with homelessness, substance abuse, and incarceration.
Matthew says he is happy his father’s clothing could be put to good use for homeless men and formerly incarcerated men who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford such well-tailored clothing. Some of the items may help these men land or keep jobs or make them feel more comfortable as they get back out into the world.
“I loved the idea of guys getting a second chance to go on interviews and feel presentable in my dad’s clothes,” Matthew says. “My dad had a large wardrobe for ‘Jeopardy!’ because they taped five shows a day, two days a week. It all just kind of clicked.”
It’s a lot better than just sitting in his closet, where none of it would ever get used.
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“The suits don’t fit me — I’m much taller than my dad was,” says Matthew, a New York restaurateur. “On most days, I wear jeans and a T-shirt, maybe a black hoodie. I probably wear a suit only five times a year.”
According to Harriet McDonald, president of the Doe Fund, the suits and shirts were distributed to men seeking jobs, and most of the neckties will be given to the men once they start new jobs. Harriet says the clothing has been “a real confidence booster” to the men in the program.
“Our guys are over the moon to wear something that was worn on television by Alex Trebek,” she says.
The non-profit runs three facilities in New York that hire former inmates at $15 an hour to help clean city streets. They also set up mock interviews to help the men prepare for other job interviews. About 28,000 men have gone through their workforce reentry program.
“We want to help them get back on their feet and get their dignity back,” Harriet says. “We want to help reunite them with their children and get back into the workforce. Breaking the cycle of prison and poverty is really important.”
55-year-old George Tucker has lived in Doe Fund housing for about a year after being released from prison. He works as a cook in the center’s kitchen and hopes to pursue a career in the culinary arts. He was the recipient of two of the late Mr. Trebek’s suits — one in charcoal gray and one in a deep purple, with shirts and ties to match.
George says he sometimes used to watch Jeopardy! in the commons area during his time in prison. “Alex Trebek was a sharp-dressed man, and now I’m wearing his suits? Amazing,” he says. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity. I’m hoping to better my life, and looking presentable in the workplace is a step in the right direction.”
And that’s exactly what Matthew Trebek was hoping for. “It’s all about giving somebody a second chance,” he says. “I know my dad would have loved that.”
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