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By Helen Silvis of The Skanner News
Published: 06 May 2013

If you want to get a job, you have to look the part. But many jobseekers don't have a closet full of interview outfits. That's where Dress for Success can help. Last year the volunteer-powered nonprofit helped 1,500 women build a wardrobe of clothes to wear to interviews, and on the job.

Now a $200,000 grant from Bank of America will help the nonprofit fulfill its mission of helping women move out of poverty and up the career ladder. The grant will pay for two additional staff and it comes with leadership training.

"We're going to have a bigger impact and we're going to help more women," Attridge says. "We're really excited about this partnership."

 A volunteer helps Tauna Soderquist find an interview outfit. View our Flickr slidehow 

The timing is perfect, Attridge says, because the nonprofit has been expanding its services and plans to open a career center.

"Our mission is to move our clients out of poverty and into independence," she said. "It's not just about finding a job, but finding a career, a way they can truly support themselves and their families."

Soon after Dress for Success opened its doors, Attridge said, staff and volunteers realized that many of the women they served could easily get stuck in work that provided a bare subsistence. Some had never finished high school and needed a GED. Most needed support to get to the next level. About 80 percent are single parents.

"We realized we needed to go deeper with the programs we offer, Attridge said.  "We all have a special purpose and we are trying to help women find that path, something that really fits who they are, and their strengths and skills."

Today, Dress for Success does much more than put women into the right suit and accessories for a job interview.  The nonprofit is set to open a new career center, named after activist and former state Rep. Patricia Whiting, where it can expand its work in mentoring and supporting women to move up the career ladder.

"It's sending that message that you are important," Attridge said. "You matter and there are possibilities for your life."

About 200 volunteers help run the program. They include women executives from the highest levels of corporate management, who work with women as mentors and career advisors. And outside speakers come to talk about everything from personal finance and stress management to communication skills and The Unwritten Rules of the Workplace.

 "We have women who are presidents of companies who come in here to volunteer," Attridge says.   "In their daily lives, the women we work with would never have the chance to meet these very talented and accomplished women."

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