BALTIMORE — While many may view Baltimore’s “Dress for Success” as a popular, well-funded program, its executive director isn’t ready to stamp the program as prosperous.
“When radio stations and television stations are talking about us, and when the women who have been successful are written about and when corporations knock on our door and offer to contribute so that we can stamp out poverty, cut down on drug abuse and get many more people employed, then we can talk about it being a complete success,” said Cleona Garfield, who has headed the Baltimore chapter of the national organization since 2007.
Garfield, however, is pushing forward.
She said the Baltimore Orioles have entered into a partnership with Dress for Success where volunteers work at concession stands at Camden Yards and a portion of the proceeds goes to the charity.
Dress for Success serves women throughout the greater Baltimore area, providing free clothing and training for job interviews. The organization responds to the needs of women in the area by also providing programs that help economically disadvantaged women get and keep jobs, grow into new positions and succeed in the mainstream workplace by building a career, Garfield said.
Founded in New York in 1997, Dress for Success assists the unemployed and underemployed, as well as graduating high school and college students entering into the job market.
“One in 12 American workers are unemployed and there is just one job opening for every three unemployed Americans,” Garfield said. “We help by providing nice clothing, which is essential in the interview because if you look good, you’ll also feel good and have more confidence. While we are clothing you, we also try and feed your brain by helping you to prepare for the job interview.”
Dress for Success has a boutique that is set up just like a shop, with work-appropriate career coats, dresses, suits, blouses and blazers, all neatly sized and on racks. Shoes and bags are also on display.
Volunteer stylists also help job seekers and once an individual lands a job, they are encouraged to return to Dress for Success for more clothes to help build a professional wardrobe.
“We also encourage those who are successful to come back and mentor others,” Garfield said. Many of Baltimore’s Dress for Success clients have been successful in finding jobs in customer service while some have landed work in medicine and education.
Last year, the program helped 500 women get jobs.
“The job market is very competitive today and our goal is to help women in the area to make it out there,” Garfield said. “We have an outreach coordinator who goes out to various partner agencies to talk about Dress for Success and how a person can sign up and benefit.”
For additional information about Dress for Success, visit: www. Dressforsuccess.org.