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18 Mar2013

300 Days of Service: Dress for Success

“If you are looking for a way to make a difference in the lives of others, consider Dress for Success”

Guest blog by Lauren Breen

Dress For Success was founded in 1996 by a law student, Nancy Lublin, with a $5000 inheritance she received from her grandfather.  She wanted to create something that would help women who once faced personal hardships to earn their own money and build new lives and achieve economic independence.

Dress For Success operates in over 118 cities across the world with the Philadelphia location one of the largest and most successful.  They rely so much on the contributions of others and I am always so overwhelmed by the amount of giving.

Dress For Success clients are by referral only and are referred by over 3000 non-profit organizations including domestic violence agencies, homeless shelters, and job training programs.  Roughly 70% are single mothers.

The women I meet always amaze me.  They have struggled and somehow found the strength to break away from the often violent environments and hardships that is their existence in order to pursue independence and a better life.  They are so courageous and full of hope but also scared and often with little self confidence.

 I will never forget one of the first clients I helped outfit for a job training program she had just been awarded.   She had next to nothing and could barely look me in the eye.  She shared with me that she was a victim of domestic violence and that it had been a long road but she finally was on her way.  When she tried on one of the suits so generously donated, her face lit up.  Her entire demeanor changed and she immediately transformed from a scared woman with little self worth to a hopeful woman who believed she could succeed.   When we all told her how beautiful she looked, she responded with tears and said that no one had ever told her she was beautiful but you could see that she felt she was.

Dress For Success provides professional attire but also provides a network of support and career development tools to help clients thrive in the work place.  They receive career counseling, financial advice and all kinds of support.  It is so much more than just the outfitting but the clothes are the first step to creating the confidence to help them keep pushing forward.

I have been involved with DFS for a few years via my previous company.  I organized employee clothes drives and would drop the clothes off at the Philadelphia office.

I really wanted to become more involved so about a year ago I started volunteering every Tuesday in the boutique as a Personal Shopper.  I work with clients who have appointments.  It is run very much like a high end ladies boutique.  I get a sense of who they are and what their comfort level is in style and I bring them clothing options and help them find the outfit that they love and the accessories they need.  The great part is that once they get the job, they are entitled to come back to select additional clothes to get them started in their job.

I also volunteer as a DFS Ambassador.  I attend events and talk about Dress For Success and represent the Philadelphia location to create awareness.  Recently, myself and a number of other Philadelphia DFS Volunteers helped Philadelphia Public TV station WHYY in their funding campaign by answering phones and taking pledges.

I am also being trained as a Volunteer Career Counselor to help women prepare for job interviews and to help build confidence by helping them discover their skill sets and how those skills can translate into a  job opportunity.

I volunteer anywhere from 12-16 hours per month working in the boutique.  The ambassador events usually occur at night but on average have been participating in about one per month.

 Another fun way I have been able to help the Philadelphia location is through the help of my Haddonfield friends.  I occasionally use FaceBook as a way to remind people that I would I would be happy to take in any professional women’s clothes or accessories when I go in on Tuesdays.  It has been wonderful, my friends drop off donations on my front porch and I take them in on Tuesday.  DFS then itemizes them and emails the friend who donated a charitable giving receipt.  It is a win win.  They do not have to drive into Philly and I help bring in more donations than I would be able to on my own.  I can’t thank my friends enough as because of them I have been able to bring in roughly 150 women’s outfits and accessories in the last few months.

People can continue to drop off on my front porch anytime.  Dress For Success is always in need of suits, business casual slacks, blouses, shoes, bags and jewelry.

The website for Dress For Success Philadelphia is

215-351-1150

233 N 12th Street

Philadelphia, PA 19107

To donate please contact me at blbreen@comcast.net.

 

-Lauren Breen