Monday, April 16, 2012

A Fashionably Good Cause

The "Women Who Rock" event held for  Dress for Success, with help from Philadelphia's Classic Rock Station 102.9 WMGK and the Parx Casino. Echo (beautiful things here) even donated those fabulous scarves! 

April is flying by much more quickly than I like to imagine. It is one of those month's where the weather changes almost hourly and you find yourself manically trying to figure out what the heck to wear to keep up. I, for one, get very excited on the warmer of the April days as I am able to lasciviously quench my thirst for wearing the new, lovely summer items hanging in my closet. I also then subsequently sulk when the weather changes itself on a dime and I have to pull denim or a sweater out of the closet.

While April may make it hard to choose what to wear on a daily basis, it also National Volunteer Month here in America, and is a good month to highlight a charity that does such a brilliant job of helping women in need that it turns the sometimes frivolous dilemma of  "what to wear" in everyday life turns it into very profound and important life-changing help that meets a very important need in the communities in which it serves.

Dress for Success (national link here) is an international organization that has more than 110 affiliates in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Poland and the West Indies.  It is a charity one might have casual knowledge of, knowing that they accept donations of new or gently used professional clothing to give to women in need for job interviews and employment.  But this charity is more than that, and as they are quoted in literature I received, they espouse that they not only provide women with professional clothing, but "the one true gift that they receive cannot be placed in a bag." Or perhaps their help extends so far beyond just clothing donation, that there isn't a shopping bag large enough to fit.

I was inspired by the idea behind National Volunteer Month to write an article for my job as the Philadelphia Fashion News Examiner for the Examiner Online (my link here) to highlight a charity that dealt with issues surrounding the topic for which I write about. While fashion might send people into notions leaning toward "frivolity" instead of "fastidious social importance", what Dress for Success does squelches those leanings quite quickly.

I found my Philadelphia division of Dress for Success (their website here) and through a simple email inquiry about attending an event they had last Saturday and was met with warm, professional and immediate response from the Philadelphia Executive Director no less, Ms. Cecilia M. Lusardi. I attended the event at the Parx casino, entitled "Women Who Rock" (more information about the event here), which was held with the help of local classic rock station WMGK 102.9 (link here). They set up a tent inside the doors, collecting professional clothing donations that quickly filled the back of a large moving truck, provided information about the program, as well as overall showcased how much they have helped women in need in the Philadelphia area. That number in the Philadelphia annex alone is over 600,000 since starting in 1997, and in 2010 alone they helped 60,000 women with not just suiting and clothing services, but career counseling, an Entrepreneurship and Scholarship Program, a Going Places Network and Professional Women's group to help find and retain employment, and even a financial services center to help with issues surrounding financial literacy, financial matters and the improvement of credit.

 (l) Dress for Success Volunteer Lisa Sinclair, (m) MGK promotions employee Tina Basham, and (r) Philadelphia Dress for Success Executive Director Cecilia M. Lusardi. 

I was only there a short time with a small bag of donations of my own, but was immediately blown away by the kindness of the volunteers, Ms. Lusardi herself and all those that donated clothing. Weather it was the small donation brought in by women and men like myself, to the true dedication of the volunteers in helping to make a difference in the lives of Philadelphia women, to stories of those donating literal car full's of clothing, it was an afternoon for which I have never been more thankful to have discovered Urban Decay's Cannonball waterproof mascara (seriously, that stuff is great..and doesn't move!). A prime example of the mascara's staying power was learning about a man who pulled up to the event with his van literally completed filled with clothing for donation. He told the staff that his beloved wife passed away in September of last year, and due to grief was unable to even go into her closet, let alone throw things out. He instead loaded up her things into his car and donated them to the cause, saying that now at least he knew "they would be going to a good cause." That gentleman could not be more right. And I not able to be more thankful to have attended, donated, been able to write about, and hopefully in the future, volunteer my services to such a waterproof-mascara worthy cause.

Dan Fein, Promotions Director for WMGK, filling the truck with donations!

I hope everyone will think about visiting your local division of Dress for Success to see how you can help. It was a charity born out of the true altruistic nature of a law student and her $50,000 inheritance from her great-grandfather. We could all use a little more of people like that in the world, and we all know that some good old-fashioned altruism and volunteering never goes out of style.

My article about Dress for Success and the event on the Examiner coming soon!

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