Before I became a board member, I had been aware of Suited for Change and had made many clothing donations. What I did not know before I became a board member is that Suited for Change is about much more than just a suit. Although any client will tell you that the suits certainly make a difference, it is the total package of services, especially the professional and life skills development courses, provided by Suited that really help clients reach their career goals. Another fact that I did not know about Suited for Change is that it has served thousands of women with only two hard-working, dedicated staff people, which means that funding goes primarily toward client services. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not also mention our hard-working, dedicated volunteers! Suited for Changes could not make it without them.
I became involved with Suited For Change in 1995. I think it struck a chord with me because it serves women in the Washington, DC comunity who need a helping hand. I know that at one time in my life, I could easily have been a recipient of Suited For Change's services. I continue to be increasingly impressed with the results that are achieved by an incredibly dedicated and hardworking (small) staff and volunteers. I've seen the results - women who are confident, happy and vital members of the community. Suited For Change does much more than provide needed professional outfits. It provides training on work skills, interviewing skills, and skills that are needed after someone gets the job. That includes life skills like balancing a checkbook and managing a family budget. Suited For Change fills a vital need in the Washington, DC area. I'm proud to be a part of this organization.
I was empowered by the staff to regain control of my life, I was given more than a suit, the staff dressed me with love and self esteem so I could face corporate America and return to work and become a productive part of society, They helped me get suited for life's task and gave me the confidence I needed to land not one job but two jobs and attend college at night. Because I was in a welfare to work program i felt uneasy about my financial situation, it took a casemanager Rev. Brown to give me a referral to attend Suited for change, I didn't no what to expect but I got more than what I needed, I left their in "Pursuit of my Happiness" and I don't regret my wonderful experience, I believe in the organization so much I went from client to ambassador of Suited for change traveling the halls of the city council advocating for funding to ensure this organization continues to thrive and serve more women. I was their 15,000th client served. They say the clothes don't make the man but the suit sure made a difference in my day and how I felt going to a job interview. Suited in DC is Simply the best!
After learning about Suited for Change's boutique sales on a local dc blog, I decided to check it out. There was a fantastic selection of high quality and low priced professional wear and personable and helpful volunteers ready to assist me in finding the right clothing for me! As a recent college graduate, money is tight, and Suited for Change's boutique sale has helped me start my new professional wardrobe.
My famous last words whenever promoting Suited for Change are "They can't get rid of me"! That is the absolute truth. There was a dark period of my life whereas I had lost all hope for the present and the future. It was a monumental effort just to get off the couch and feed my cat. Suffering from back-to-back personal losses, I was unemployed, about to become homeless, and deeply depressed. Eventually, there was a shining light called "Suited for Change" that brought me out of that darkness and renewed my self-esteem. The first time I walked through their doors changed my life, for the better, forever. In participating in the many life skills workshops (resume writing, nutrition, interviewing techniques, etc.)that were conducted by volunteer professionals, I got back my sense of self, independence, a Federal Government job, and a new suit (with all the accessories)to boot! The workshops are specifically geared towards preparing a woman to enter the workforce fully equiped with the knowledge and tools she will need to succeed. And yes, I am a success! I developed a confidence that I never had before. The unselfish dedication of the staff and volunteers to the betterment of life for women, like me, who just may need a chance (or, sometimes, another chance), is remarkable. For this organization not to continue would be a great diservice to all the women who have yet to be reached. With that said, again I say, "They can't get rid of me!"
Sixteen years ago my family moved to the Washington DC area. In a new place, being a new mother and having no friends yet, I ventured to the Washington Convention Center to a trade show for women. Catching my eye was a booth sponsored by Suited For Change. After learning that SFC helps women from a variety of unfortunate circumstances get on their feet, I was sold and asked to become a volunteer. Dressing clients now for 15+ years, I have witnessed countless numbers of women come into our showroom looking hopeless and after a several minutes of working with a trained SFC volunteer, leave smiling with their shoulders thrown back and their head held high. We treat all our clients like the important people they are and offer them the encouragement they so desperately need. We begin by fitting our clients into interview appropriate clothing so that their very first impression is a positive one. We also discuss appropriate grooming, the need to be on time, and answer any other questions our clients may have. There is a checklist that we go through to ensure our client is ready for her interview. We also have a number of leaflets that our clients can take with them on many topics applicable to a job search as well as helpful hints for personal finance. Also personal development courses are offered as additional help. Once our client gets her job, she comes back to SFC for additional clothing for her job as well as enthusiastic support and congratulations for her accomplishment. Two particular women I helped stand out in recent memory. One was a diabetic who had run away from an abusive situation. She had cigarette burns all over her body. In order to come to SFC, unbeknown to us, she cancelled a doctors appointment to get treatment for her diabetes so she could make her already scheduled interview. It was more important to her to begin supporting her children whom she had taken with her when she left her situation. The second woman I remember is one who had been homeless for a number of years. It took a while to convince her to remove her long johns so she could see how she looked in the beautiful skirt suit she had on. Once she was finally convinced to take them off, she looked in a mirror and started crying. She could not believe that she could ever look this nice again. A bear hug came my way and we both cried and hugged for awhile. We volunteers take our responsibility seriously and gladly cheer our clients on to success. Thank you Suited For Change for being there. I have grown tremendously by being able to give back to so many others.
Learning computers is a piece of cake for our clients compared to walking into their first job interview. When you've been down-and-out for so long, how do you find the confidence in yourself... how do you find the respect for yourself... that a prospective employer expects? I have met with former and current clients, and it's always an experience that chokes me up. Women who are standing tall and proud, who feel good about themselves and are confident about the possibilities their life now holds... Women who said "I want more", and then went out and got it. What they say most often they got from Suited is not clothing - it's respect. Respect FROM the staff, and FOR themselves. We treat them as valued customers. And every woman finds what she needs, from petite to tall, large to small... no woman is sent home without work-appropriate clothes. Clients are assigned a 'personal shopper' who coaches them on styles and colors and what works for THEIR needs. They also learn about the "SOFT SKILLS" training Suited offers - for free - to all our clients, where women learn not just to write a resume, but how to handle a difficult boss; not just what clothing is appropriate, but how to create a houseold budget. There are so many things we all take for granted,and Suited knows that these women can't afford to take anything for granted. I joined the Board 5 years ago to provide a fresh pair of eyes with a background in procurement and IT. I've watched Suited overcome myriad challenges ranging from the economic downturn to the untimely loss of two executive directors in little over a year. That is no mean feat - the recession has killed larger and better-funded non-profits in the area. I specifically would like to call out the outstanding management of current executive director Tyna Gaylor as a major factor in Suited's survival these past few years. I cannot say enough about Suited for Change, but don't take my word for it... SAP, the German international Fortune-500 sofware maker for whom I work, has been a corporate donor for five years going into the sixth year this fall. Suited for Change sells itself with outstanding results, client testimonials, and continual and innovative changes to our mission and services as the needs of local women evolve. Suited for Change does all of this without recieving a single penny of District or Federal funds - something I hope we can change for ourselves!
Suited For Change is one of the most inspiring and effective non-profits in the DC area. Our mission is simple: giving women a hand up, not a hand out. We provide gently used professional clothing and program support to women who are transitioning from poverty to economic independence. Our clients come from the most challenging of circumstances: drug abuse programs, homeless and domestic abuse shelters, exoffender programs....and they come to us seeking real change. I have met so many SFC clients and former clients that have said that Suited has literally transformed their lives. Respect, personal attention-- we given our clients the boost they need to enter the job market with confidence. We also leverage every dollar that we receive by partnering with other social service agencies in the area, and by relying on our "army of devoted volunteers" to deliver our services to the client community. We have a dedicated and hardworking board of directors which is steering SFC through the challenges of the current economic situation, and focusing SFC on delivering our services in the most effective manner possible.
Suited for Change, Washington DC, impacts women's lives and gives them hope. I was first introduced to SFC by one of its clients. She was being honored at a fund-raising event and asked me to accompany her. My heart was moved to hear the stories of women who had no hope in life and how SFC had come along side them, giving them training for interview and job skills and complete wardrobe "makeovers" to help give them confidence in their job interviews and for the workplace. My friend has gone from homelessness and personal disappointments to success and promotions in a government position. She has been gone from "down and out" to serving her community on an appointed board, working tirelessly as a fundraiser, and giving motivational speeches. These successes came about through the support and influence of Suited for Change. Having attended fund-raising events, I am greatly impressed wtih the generosity and selflessness of the leaders and volunteers in this organization. They do so much to benefit women who need help in rising above their circumstances with very little means. Yet, those corporations who do support SFC are generous and SFC could not exist without them. Thank you, SFC, for your joyful commitment to making a difference!
Suited for Change is truly an amazing organization. I for one can not look back over my life without acknowledging the great positive impact SFC had on my life and still does. Where do I start, at the end of my nightmare would be a good a place. I was living, no exsisting in a life of substance abuse and denial. This life style as it was grants you nothing and takes everything from you. When I was finally able to pull myself up and away so I could begin my life again, I had no marketable skills or presence, in fact I had very low self esteem. After finishing a job readiness program which was part of my recovery, I was terrified. I did not know even how to approach looking for a job. Enter an invitation from an organization that had opportunities for me to be able to recieve training in resume writing and how to dress for an interview as well as give you the suit for the interview. THis was of course Suited for Change. THey gave me more that a suit, they gave me a thrist for excellence that I still have today! The classes on presentation gave me such confidence and the one on one mentoring from the many giving and warm women of SFC began to help me heal and believe in myself again. When I recieved my acceptance letter from XEROX on the first interview, my self worth was outstanding!!! No more poor Leary I was going to succed. I eventually went on to become an on site contract liasion between Dept of Energy and Xerox and the service Techs. Life is good now due to a lot of encouragement and training from SFC, they always leave the door open which is such a plus!! You never know when you will need a word or a push in the right direction again. I have gone on to speak with many people, organizations and I was blessed to even speak on the Supreme Court floor wuth at least 1 Supreme Court judge in residence and a room full of Lawyers and organizations that are striving to be apart of the solution in the metro area. I have had a great journey back to me and I thank Suited for Change for seeing the best in me, as I went from the streets to the Board Room.