By JULIE REPPERT
The new member class of the Junior League of Williamsport recently coordinated a Dress for Success event with other local agencies to provide women who have experienced hardship with the opportunity to acquire professional attire to go on job interviews.
The Junior League of Williamsport recently held a Dress for Success event for women going through a hardship to be able to obtain business attire for upcoming job interviews. Shown is participant Ashley Evans with her two-year-old daughter, Ava.
Each year, the new member class creates a project to assist women and-or children in the community, said Tracy Haas, Junior League member.
"Our new member class was strongly committed to helping women who had experienced a hardship be able to return to the workforce with the necessary business attire, which would otherwise be cost prohibitive to someone getting back on their feet," Haas added.
The Junior League partnered with other non-profits to strengthen the mission and reach of the project. Other organizations involved were Favors Forward Foundation, YWCA Liberty House and Family Promise. These organizations were chosen because the Junior League knew they would be able to identify clients who needed the most help, according to Haas.
"To be successful in the workplace, a woman needs to walk into an interview or into her job and feel confident," said Anna Thompson, communications and development manager at the YWCA. "Clothing has the power to make that happen."
The event was able to assist 11 women, not only providing them with business attire for their upcoming job interviews, but also with a new sense of self-esteem and self-worth.
Melissa Magargle, executive director at Family Promise, said it's important for the women they are working with to try to improve their self-esteem and prepare them for the workforce by promoting their abilities to obtain the jobs these women aren't normally able to get.
"I was grateful that they (Junior League) were willing to put so much effort into it, it was unbelievable and the amount of things that they were able to give to each family, too," Magargle said. "The thing that was so amazing ... and they pumped our women up so good. The girls would come out and they complemented them and you could see the growth and it helped with self-esteem and their ability to say I can do this and I can go out and get a job. And two of our girls went out and got a job the next week. We were very excited."
Haas said that when a woman is working to get back on her feet, the lack of appropriate business attire can keep them from returning to the workforce and moving forward and past their hardships.
"It was a wonderful experience," said Ashley Evans, a Family Promise client who participated in the event. "Most of us are actually in such a situation that we don't have money for the clothes for the interviews that we have. It helped us out so much to reach out and give us what we need for our children. It was such a wonderful and endearing thing they did for us. Some of us ended up in tears."
Thompson said some of the women involved in the program may have never had a job interview before or even able to buy new dress clothes.
"For the Junior League to be able to make that interview process less daunting or to make walking to a workplace a less intimidating experience, is such a gift to these ladies," Thompson added.
Lori Wannop, Favors Forward Foundation director, said "Anyone in the job market could use a boost visually and emotionally. Dressing well for an interview gives them an advantage."
Items including clothing, shoes and accessories, were donated by Junior League members and sustainers, as well as other organizations and individuals, according to Haas. Maurice's at the Lycoming Mall had a clothing donation box for their customers and provided coupons for those who offered donations, Greg Welteroth Adverti-sing and West Branch Human Resource Society also coordinated donations from their employees and members, Haas added.
Members of the new Junior League class include Haas, Marisa Rau, Jennifer Ruelens, Jackie Lindsay, Leah Grieb and Lachelle Gretzula.
"It was truly amazing to see our group (Junior League) come together and make such a significant impact on these women's lives," Haas said. "As women, we all know how clothing can make you feel, good or bad, so to see these women's eyes light up when they tried on a new outfit and felt good about themselves, that was such a gift to each of us. In some instances, we were also able to talk to them about other programs of benefit to them, as well as offer advice on interviews and job searches."
Evans said her own self-esteem was given a boost at the event, and feels the program benefited both her and her daughter, Ava.
"I hope the other women feel as privileged as I did when they were there helping them. They are really selfless, it's really amazing how they can make people feel," Evans said of those who helped with the event.