By Mary Ellen Slone
Focusing on both caring and motivating, this unique Central Kentucky not-for-profit organization offers area women opportunities to rebuild and enhance their self-confidence in order to achieve the fondest goal of each: That of becoming gainfully employed.
The Dress for Success Lexington team is all about empowering other local women to gain the skills and self-confidence necessary to apply for, be interviewed for, and ultimately to be hired for a real paying job.
As an affiliate of the International Dress for Success non-profit organization, this Central Kentucky organization deploys its growing resources to motivate and advise deserving women whose individual quests for employment require an infusion of self-confidence and mentoring.
Are they successful? Emphatically YES, they are!
Since the organization opened its doors in Eastland Shopping Center on Winchester Road, the group has become a beacon of hope for numerous area women.
According to Analisa Wagoner, the local cofounder and Executive Director, they serve economically disadvantaged women from a variety of over 30 community agency partners. These women are at the point of an interview prior to being referred for an appointment, or have just recently secured employment.
“There are many reasons for these ladies ‘needing a hand up, not a hand out’. They want to be self-sustaining; but in order to achieve that goal, they often must become more self-confident. With our guidance, coupled with our abilities to help hone their interviewing skills, and especially their self-confidence, they have a much better chance of transforming their lives for the better. We know that the positive impact a new job will create for a client not only affects her, but it makes a difference to her family and community as well, and we are excited to be a part of that transformation.”
Although “clothes make the woman” is an oft-used phrase, the Dress for Success Lexington team members know that while being ‘dressed for success’ has a significant role in every metamorphosis, there are often other obstacles to employment. The clothes are just the beginning of the process in helping to restore and rebuild a woman’s self-confidence. The network of support and career development tools offered by the organization also play a major role in achieving their goals of self-sufficiency.
Dress for Success Clients
Clients come from all walks of life, and range in age from 16-67. Although the mid-twenties through the late-forties group comprise the majority of their clients, young women 18-24 are just as likely to seek career counseling (including learning how to dress and how to successfully interview), as do ladies 50 years of age and older.
If the individual is in her late teens/early twenties, her basic wardrobe is likely very informal and as such, is not suitable for job interviews. Her self-esteem may currently be based on her appearance, but how she learns to present herself to a would-be employer and successfully be offered a job will require a make-over and career guidance—all provided free of charge by this unique organization.
Wagoner explains; “No two clients are exactly alike; each has a different situation, and different needs. They often come from very different stages in their lives. We’re blessed to have an amazing group of committed volunteers and a remarkable group of donors—all of whom enhance our abilities to really help these worthy clients begin to achieve that critically important goal of sustainable employment.”
HOW Dress for Success Lexington is funded
From ladies who have new or gently worn clothing they want to donate, to companies who have donated items to the Career Center and boutique, including much needed office supplies and clothing racks, this 501C3 organization is blessed with being the recipient of donations of all kinds.
Private and Corporate Donations
Funding for this unique enterprise comes from numerous sources; cash donations, not-for-profit grants, and the amazing willingness of individuals, organizations and companies to contribute goods, services, and time.
For instance, Dress for Success Lexington was one of 15 Dress for Success affiliates to receive a “Paving the Way Forward” grant of $25,000 from the WalMart Foundation, which facilitated the purchase of computers, furniture and fixtures for the organization’s Career Center.
On the day this interview was conducted, the UPS truck driver had just unloaded six large boxes of brand new SPANX™, those extremely popular undergarments for women who need help smoothing out their curves. As the boxes were being unloaded, they joined a collection of similarly sized cartons which had arrived in the very recent past; dozens and dozens of brand new Vanity Fair™ bras in all sizes. Both generous donations are an example of some of the national partnerships established through the Dress for Success Worldwide office.
Corporate donations of new clothing set up a win-win scenario for both the donors and those organizations who welcome the help.
Board Chair Amy Wickliffe noted that while all donations are appreciated, job appropriate new, or nearly-new items for women are especially welcomed. “As our very first client said, “When you look good, you feel good” and the clothing in our boutique reflects that sentiment, enabling our clients to put their best selves forward when they are finished being suited. They walk out with a new found confidence and energy, much more prepared to land that new job.”
According to Analisa, “We are truly blessed by the outpouring of support we have received from the community. As a young organization, we are in need of job appropriate attire for our women, supplies for our Career Center, and volunteers to help us make it all happen.”
Although this amazing organization is locally based and operated, it’s one of 139 Dress for Success affiliates throughout the world. The Lexington organization was approved as an affiliate in 2012, and has become a highly regarded source of hope and inspiration, positively changing lives since opening its doors.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Key individuals involved in this organization include Executive Director Analisa Wagoner, cofounder Jennifer Monarch, and Board Chair Amy Wickliffe. Following is their Top Priority Wish List:
Size 16+ clothing, conservative in color and style, appropriate for interviewing with a would-be employer, as well as ‘wearables’ to work once hired.
Long sleeve button-down shirts in all sizes—black and white—for those women working in the hospitality field.
Scrub tops and bottoms, any and all sizes needed for individuals who are seeking employment in medical facilities or child care.
Black no-skid ladies’ shoes for clients whose new-found employment requires standing on their feet for a significant amount of their work day.
Black neck ties for hospitality workers.
Donations of portfolios for clients who will be taking resumes, letters of recommendation and ways to showcase their creative work to prospective employers.
Work appropriate shoes in sizes 10+.
Donations are accepted by appointment on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They are sorted and earmarked for the Suiting program, deemed inappropriate for the workplace and donated on to other partner organizations, or selected for one of their quarterly sales; the proceeds of which go directly back into funding their programs.
They are also looking for mentors; local women who have the time, patience, and willingness to work with qualified job seekers who really need and would greatly appreciate gaining insights from individuals who understand how important self-confidence is when one is interviewing for a badly needed job.
According to Wagoner, “If you’ve got mentoring or human resources experience—on any level—we’d welcome you as a volunteer in our Career Center. Nothing is as impactful for those we’re working to help as being able to sit down and discuss their hopes, expectations and fears for entry or re-entry into the job market with someone who has experience to share!”
Contact: Analisa Wagoner, [email protected] or call 859-231-7848. You can also visit their website, dressforsuccess.org/lexington or find them on Facebook.