HER STYLE

Dress For Success-Atlanta

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By LORI WYNNE
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A new year means a “new” you, and that is exactly what 1,200 formerly homeless or impoverished women in Georgia experienced last year, with the help of the Dress For Success-Atlanta affiliate. The new year will see much growth and the ability to help women and their families break the chain of poverty. DFS provides business attire, free sessions to improve interview skills, job retention and career advice. The nonprofit hosts a business women’s networking group and helps its clients gain overall confidence in their professional and personal lives.

About:
According to the website, www.atlanta.dressforsuccess.org, “Dress for Success was founded in New York City in 1997 and is now in 142 cities in 20 countries. Dress for Success Atlanta was incorporated in 1997 and works in partnership with more than 20 Referral Agency Partners.”

Their mission is to, “Empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.”

Pamela Owunta, director of Dress for Success-Atlanta since July 2017, is passionate about what the 501 (c) 3 organization does and shared how individuals, corporations, church, service and education groups and community groups can help here in Georgia.

“Volunteers are the heart and soul of Dress for Success Atlanta and are needed in every area of our operation,” she said. “We are always looking for dedicated people interested in moving the mission of the organization forward.”

DFS provides appropriate job interview attire for women. This includes, clothing, accessories, undergarments, shoes and handbag. After she has attained the job, she will receive up to five work-appropriate outfits to create her “working woman’s wardrobe.”

DFS also provides free training sessions for women to help them retain employment. The organization’s website states, “Having completed the crucial first step — securing employment — women in these programs focus on retaining their jobs and developing their professional skills. Our goal is to ensure each woman is moving toward meaningful and sustainable careers as well as financial independence.”

Dress for Success offers a business networking group for their “suiting” clients. The Professional Women’s Group offers support and education through expert speakers on a variety of topics such as: financial advice, juggling responsibilities, motivation, cooking and stress management.

Donating:
“We receive 150,000 units of clothing a year,” Owunta said. “We handle the donations with care. Our volunteers inspect, steam and hang the clothing in the boutique. Our main focus is to build confidence in the women we serve.”
Suiting clients receive the professional attire for free. The organization also hosts inventory sales two or three times a year. The next one will be in April 2018.

The rules for donating clothing to the organization are:

  • Interview-appropriate suits (within two years old)
  • Interview-appropriate blouses (within two years old)
  • Shells
  • Skirts, pants, and jackets (within two years old)
  • Shoes: dress, dark colors (black, brown, navy, taupe)
  • Dresses: work-appropriate (no formal or evening wear)
  • Dressy-casual outfits (conservative two-piece set)
  • Jewelry and scarves
  • Pantyhose: new and unopened
  • Portfolios to be used for resumes
  • Handbags (briefcases or work-appropriate handbag)
  • Community clubs or groups can also host a clothing drive and focus on women’s professional wear or just one aspect of the wardrobe such as handbags.


Volunteering:
“We have a small but mighty staff of two,” Owunta said. “The rest are volunteers. Last year we had 200 and we need more!”
You can serve as an individual, corporate group, church group or service club. DFS needs:

  • Image consultants- you don’t have to be a trendsetter. DFS needs positive women who love to serve others. Each client receives an hour of time with a volunteer image consultant to help them feel confident in their business ensemble.
  • Speakers for the monthly Professional Women’s Group meetings. Volunteer speakers can share their expertise with 80-100 professional women who are hungry for knowledge.
  • Business and career coaches in DFS career center. Your time and energy will help women reach their career goals.

If you or your church or business organization are looking to make a difference in the lives of people in our community this year, consider donating your time, expertise, or funds to Dress For Success-Atlanta.
 
DFS-Atlanta’s Wish list for 2018

  • New or gently used closed toe shoes with no open heels in women’s sizes 8-12
  • New bras in sizes A and B cup
  • Toiletries, such as toothpaste and shampoo.
  • More affiliates in northern, southern and mid-Georgia
  • Donation drop-off sites in North Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett and Forsyth counties
  • Interior designer to revitalize the 4,000-square-foot boutique with paint and build out spaces
  • Professional organizers to help organize all donations
  • 10 speakers to speak on a variety of topics at the Professional Women’s Group Leadership Conference on Aug. 18, 2018


Final Tip:
To help others catch the vision of helping Dress For Success, consider inviting Cynthia Harper, a former client and DFS delegate, to speak to your group or organization. Contact her at cymp_paulette@yahoo.com. She tells a compelling story of loss and accomplishment. ■

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