Pocket the smartphone and get back to basics with a little face-to-face

One of the things I love most about my job, or any job in public relations, is the spontaneity. Most days are fairly routine: writing, researching, interviewing, pitching…you know the drill. But there are those times when opportunities are presented to get involved with your community, meet new people, make connections and open your eyes.

I recently had one of those days. I’m working on follow up pieces for grants given to local businesses and non-profits by our client Walmart. Dress for Success Indianapolis, an affiliate of the national Dress for Success organization, is one of the recipients. They graciously invited me to their office to take a look around and get one-on-one background for the piece I’ll be writing. My thinking was “a few hours away from the desk? I’ll take it!” 

I’ll admit, I thought Dress for Success Indianapolis was simply a place women could go to get second hand dress clothes when they were in need. Was I ever wrong. Dress for Success Indianapolis has three programs, designed to help women from the start of their job search to becoming self sufficient and in a career they enjoy and are proud of. The process can take years and the staff and volunteers at Dress for Success Indianapolis are there every step of the way. The visit ended up being less of a break from the office, and more of an inspiration.

As far as the boutique goes, you shouldn’t expect to find old or outdated hand-me-down clothing. While nearly all of it is donated, Dress for Success Indianapolis is picky with what they put on their shelves, as they should be. It’s not about making sure a woman simply has appropriate attire. It’s about making a woman feel confident and beautiful, from their makeup down to their shoes (both of which Dress for Success Indianapolis offers).

As a poor college student, I’ve felt the burn of having to purchase dress clothes. No one was kidding when they said that it’s expensive to look nice, especially in the workplace. I found out during my visit that it’s not just women in poverty who are able to use Dress for Success’ services. Many college students are referred to them upon graduation, when the job search begins but before you have the means to dress for the real world.

One out of four female-headed households in Indiana is in poverty, a figure that is unacceptable to me. I applaud Dress for Success Indianapolis in their efforts to help more than 1,000 women per year better their lives and their futures. The follow up work they do for years after someone is referred to them is key to making sure women don’t fall through the wide cracks that are around every turn.

Becoming self sufficient is a process that takes 5-7 years, and it’s not easy. Many times it takes encouragement to get back on the horse, especially if you’ve fallen a few times. The mentors at Dress for Success Indianapolis are there to make sure the women don’t give up. What started out as a follow up for a client ended up being an enriching experience.

Sometimes it’s important for us to take a step back from the computers, cell phones and social networking sites and look at what’s going on around us in our own communities. My job as a public relations intern afforded me that opportunity; just another reason why I love the nature of this profession.

Only SOME of the clothes in the boutique

Shoes upon shoes

I was pleasantly surprised to learn they even provide accessories for the women

Dress for Success Indianapolis office, located downtown

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