Dress for Success is an international not-for-profit organization that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. Since starting operations in 1997, Dress for Success has expanded to more than 90 cities in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, the UK and the West Indies. To date, Dress for Success has helped more than 500,000 women work toward self-sufficiency.
Barbara Attridge, Executive Director and Co-founder of Dress for Success Oregon explains that "Dress for Success has created a support system for low-income women where none existed. Our services provide a critical life-line to hundreds of women in our community, helping them move out of poverty and become self-sufficient.”
One such woman is Paula Moore. Her story is below.
"Six years ago I was a full blown meth addict. I lost custody of my children, my home, my health and my self respect. Meth addiction was a whirlpool that sucks you to the bottom. This is the only way I can describe it to non-users: You’re like a racehorse with blinders and the only thing you can see is what’s in right front of you. And what’s in front of you is always the drug. When I get involved in something – I throw myself into it. Well, I worked hard at my own demise. In 2002, I was arrested for the fifth time. My skin was gray. I weighed 90 pounds. That arrest was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
After sitting in the Clark County jail for four months, real human emotions started to come back to me. I thought about my mom and dad sitting in that courtroom. I thought about my two young children. I knew I had taken my life away from me!
I wanted it back. I asked God to break the chains that held me down. I asked the judge for treatment. I begged him, “Don’t release me until there is a bed available for me in a treatment center.” Luckily I got treatment – and renewed support from my parents. I knew I wanted to make something of my life. I went back to school. When I graduated from Clark College in 2006, I needed work. But there I was with a poor-student wardrobe – halter tops, jeans and biker boots. Hardly the stuff for a job interview. But my Worksource employment counselor suggested I call this place called Dress for Success. I figured this agency would hand me a voucher to buy clothes with, but when I called, this very warm and friendly woman scheduled an appointment for me to meet with a personal shopper. When the day came, I walked into Dress for Success (DFSO) and sat down, looked around at all the beautiful clothes and said “this is the place for me”. My personal shopper helped me pick out five pieces of clothing that all mixed and matched shoes, handbag, coat and accessories and even hair and makeup services.
I was so confident during my interview, the Vancouver law firm offered me a position that deep down I wasn’t sure I was even qualified for. I was then introduced to Dress for Success’s Professional Women’s Group (PWG). A job retention program geared toward helping women reach self sufficiency. I was amazed of what was offered; dinner, childcare, expert speakers who presented topics such as, unwritten rules of the workplace and how to build a financial foundation and I received even more free clothes. I developed new skills and made new friends who supported me in my new life. I was also offered a mentor through Dress for Success’s PWG group who inspired me to further my education in Social Work. I set my sights on a degree in social work – so that I could give to others the help that I had received. As part of my degree, I did an internship with Dress for Success. Last September, my dream came true when I was hired as the Program Coordinator for Dress for Success. Now I can fulfill my dream of giving back to other women. Dress for Success doesn’t just give women a change of wardrobe. It changes lives. I am proud to be a partner in those life-affirming changes."
Dress for Success Oregon wil celebrate it's 10th Anniversary with a dinner and fashion show. This will take place on Thursday, May 7, 2009, with a silent auction and cocktails beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the Portland Ballroom at the Oregon Convention Center. Individual tickets to the event cost $125. For more information call 503-249-7300.
ConnectTen is their new campaign which aspires to get 10,000 supporters to donate $10 and then tell 10 of their friends, connecting everyone to the cause and helping Dress for Success Oregon serve its 10,000th client in 2009. Like many non-profits in this economy, Dress for Success is facing a serious dilemma; demand for their services has increased more than 150 percent in the last five months, with funding significantly dropping off. To find out more click here.