Hello dear readers! You ladies just warm my heart. Thank you for your encouraging comments to me at the end of yesterday’s blog post. But more importantly, thank you for gathering around one of our fellow readers and offering her your support and prayers during her husband’s illness. You are such a blessing! And that’s why I’d like to invite you to visit Dress for Success Cincinnati with me. Let’s go!
While I have been accepted as a volunteer at Dress for Success Cincinnati, I am not an official spokesperson for this organization.
Like many of you, I’ve heard about Dress for Success for years when favorite retailers like Talbots ran clothing drives for this non-profit. I have enjoyed contributing business appropriate clothing and accessories to the drives for years. But it never really occurred to me that I could do more. Until I moved to Cincinnati.
Since 1996, Dress for Success has been providing women with the appropriate business attire for job interviews. Founded in New York City, other affiliates of the program began to open across the country and around the world over the following years. Cincinnati’s affiliate has been serving the greater Cincinnati and northern Kentucky areas as the only life-long, fully contained employment support program for women since 1999.
The Cincinnati affiliate recently moved into a new facility, which they had designed specifically to be both functional and a place of beauty and encouragement for the recipients of this program. I decided some time back to begin volunteering on a bi-weekly basis at Dress for Success, so I began the process by taking a tour of the new facility last week with the volunteer manager, Courtney Shannon, shown above. For those of you who are local, the new facility is located in Norwood. You can get directions and more information here at their website.
I was blown away as I walked into the beautiful, airy lobby of Dress for Success Cincinnati. And that’s exactly the response they’re looking for. Courtney shared with me that they want the women who come to the center for career clothing and the other services to feel like they are in a beautiful and polished place where they will be treated with dignity, grace and respect.
The women who visit the center are referred by other agencies in the region such as homeless shelters, immigration services, job training programs, education institutions and domestic violence shelters. But they also can be self-referred.
The mission of Dress for Success Cincinnati is “to empower women to achieve economic
independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and development tools
to help them thrive in work and in life.” I’m absolutely enthralled with that mission statement. That alone gives me goosebumps. But according to Courtney, goosebumps are a common occurrence when you volunteer or work at Dress for Success.
Courtney explained that women often come to the center expecting it to look and feel like most other similar agencies – somewhat sterile, a little musty, maybe old and utilitarian. But instead, by the time they’ve toured the facility and been treated to its services, they feel like they’ve shopped in an exquisite store with custom services. They frequently enter the building looking tired and skeptical and a little defeated, but they leave feeling beautiful and confident and capable.
In fact, DFS claims that celebration is one of its pillars of the operation. They believe in celebrating each woman’s successes, however she defines them. They like to fill the facility with laughter and applause and joy.
The Dress for Success Purpose: We believe each woman deserves the chance to dream and reach her potential because when she does, her impact on her family and the community will be profound.
That purpose statement resonates with me, too, because that’s exactly the kind of belief that motivates me each day as I research and write my blog posts. My goal here is to inspire and encourage women 50+ to get dressed for our unique days so we can engage authentically and graciously with those around us. And why do I do that? Because I believe every woman is an influencer. And we need to get dressed for our days so we can show up in a big way.
So I love the idea of helping women who are at a crossroads to reach their full potential. Whether that woman has left an abusive relationship, is trying to stay clean and sober, is attempting to regain custody of her children or is simply trying to move into a better situation for her and her family, I am thrilled that Dress for Success offers a gentle hand up, not just a handout.
Isn’t this facility stunning? Dress for Success collects and sorts and displays apparel that is appropriate for interview situations. Working with a volunteer stylist, clients are given the opportunity to put together a complete outfit for interviewing. They receive undergarments, clothing, shoes, accessories and jewelry that will help them look polished and their best.
Once a woman is gainfully employed she is given the opportunity to return to the center and receive 10 additional items to fill out a capsule wardrobe for her job. You may have noticed in the photo above that they even have attire such as scrubs at DFSC. As Courtney noted, those can be expensive for new employees.
But Dress for Success doesn’t just outfit women, they also equip them with necessary skills for obtaining and succeeding at employment. Volunteers and corporate volunteers train clients in such things as computer competency, resume building, interview skills, makeup application, networking and effective self-promotion.
If you live near a major city, you might check to see if you have a Dress for Success affiliate near you. In fact, DFS is an international organization at this point. DFSC uses approximately 150 volunteers on an ongoing basis, but they also welcome in groups from nearby high schools, colleges, trade schools, businesses and clubs to sort the donated clothes. This is perhaps the job with the greatest and most ongoing need for volunteers.
I love that DFSC makes use of every item that is donated. They either keep it for the StyleHER transformation center (if it’s work appropriate), sell it in their unique resale boutique, Portaluca, sell it on a website such as Poshmark (if it’s a high end item that can bring in significant revenue for ongoing expenses) or donate it to another charitable organization such as Matthew 25 Ministries.
Portaluca is Dress for Success Cincinnati’s earned income venture and it’s the only one of its kind in the Dress for Success system. Not only does it provide good use of donated items that are not suitable for the StyleHER program, but it gives low-income women an opportunity to shop for nice clothing at greatly reduced prices…in a beautiful and desirable atmosphere.
Portaluca is staffed, but also operated by volunteers. Groups can also have private shopping parties at Portaluca, providing women with a fun shopping experience while also raising funds for Dress for Success.
This past year Dress for Success had to get creative in how it served women. They created styled boxes through telephone interviews with clients and then delivered them directly to the women. But Dress for Success Cincinnati also has a mobile unit that provides the same styling services on site in communities and at other agencies.
According to Courtney, Dress for Success Cincinnati served approximately 1,800 women the year before Covid hit. And they are eagerly getting back on track with their services now. They are so grateful for volunteers and have a very thorough training program. But you can also assist them by donating, sponsoring a clothing drive and simply spreading the word about their services. If you’d like more information about Dress for Success, check out their website here at DressforSuccess.org. Oh, and Dress for Success is an international organization with affiliates in over 20 countries and 40 states, so don’t be surprised if they happen to be near you.
I hope you enjoyed visiting Dress for Success Cincinnati with me. When I have my live event one of these days (maybe next fall!), we’ll plan to visit the facility together and maybe donate a couple of hours of our time. Wouldn’t that be fun?
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Blessed for My Day
I think today I’ll just let the scripture speak for itself.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ~ Matthew 25:34-40