When economic times are hard, job seekers need to find out about all their options – especially women struggling to support their families.
That's why Barbara Attridge, executive director and co-founder of Dress for Success Oregon wants more people to know about the full spectrum of the group's services, which are made available to women on a referral basis from local social service agencies and community programs.
"When I see the women who come through here, they don't have anyone to support them in their lives, nobody telling them that they have what it takes to succeed, and that's one of the things we do here," she says. "We're more than clothing — we provide a network of support."
An international non-profit organization, Dress for Success provides job search training, mentoring, and moral support – as well as handbags, shoes and suits – to some of the women who need it most.
"We just had our 10th anniversary, we've helped over 8,000 women since we started, and interesting enough this year through the end of April we've helped almost a thousand women, so the demand for our services has increased tremendously," Attridge says about the Oregon chapter.
"We see a lot of good things," says Deona Waters, who has worked with Dress for Success clients this spring. "I've had people cry and people hug me when they get their clothing.
"We don't just help one day — after they get their job they get to come in and get some more clothing, and then after that they get to start the professional women's group that we have so that they can get more clothes and get the chance to meet more women who are just now going out into the workforce."
First, clients of all ages and backgrounds referred to Dress for Success by its 100 local partnering agencies such as Step It Up, AARP, Steps to Success and Better People (find the complete list on their website, dressforsuccess.org).
They get help creating a resume and learn about conducting job interviews.
When clients get their job, they get to come back and get additional clothing for work, and they get enrolled in a support group called the Professional Women's Group.
"It's a job retention, career development program, and through that program we provide more opportunities for growth and support, we have two meetings a month where we bring in a professional speaker on topics that range from the unwritten rules of the workplace to cleaning up your credit," Attridge says. "At those meetings we provide dinner, and there's an opportunity to network with other women going through similar experiences."
Dress for Success also partners with Portlandia, a professional women's networking organization, which sets up mentors for participants in the professional women's group.
"Everything is one on one, one woman at a time, and that's unique about us," Attridge says.
Community members support the program through volunteering as well as "suit drives," as the H50 bistro & bar did for Mother's Day in May.
The café launched a Mothers Helping Others SOS – "send one suit" project — winning a great response from customers.
"We are a new restaurant, we opened in July of 2008, and being that this was our first run through Mother's Day, I wanted to do something different, " says H5O bistro & bar manager Michael Hayhurst. "I thought, perfect for the community – not only are we celebrating Mother's Day, but we're celebrating mothers helping other mothers to get back on their feet."
Attridge says the next big thing for job seekers is the medical field, where Steps for Success offers an array of medical-related job training opportunities, plus traditional job fields including education and retail.
The group's demand is up, so they've created a new funding drive to help meet their needs – the 10 and 10 Campaign.
"We raise every dollar every year to support our resources," Attridge says. "It's our 10th year and we will serve our 10,000th client this year, so we're asking everyone we know to tell 10 friends about us, and for them to donate $10."
Attridge says, however, that because the organization serves women, their work has a ripple effect in the community because most clients are also running households with children.
"Eighty-five percent of the women who come here are single parents," she says.
Find out more at http://www.DressForSuccess.org (follow the "affiliate" link to Oregon or Washington) or call 503-249-7300.