|By Lori Szepelak|
SPRINGFIELD For Josaphine Golden, Dress for Success Western Massachusetts has changed her life.
"I'm a butterfly that came out of a cocoon," Golden said, a gregarious single mother who believes that hard work pays off. She has been an active member of the program's Professional Women's Group (PWG) for more than five years, and says she doesn't miss an opportunity to network with others across the city.
"It's a sisterhood of women," Golden told Reminder Publications during a recent visit to the Dress for Success boutique at 140 Wilbraham Ave. The boutique is located in the lower level of the Massachusetts Career Development Institute (MCDI). Dress for Success Western Massachusetts is an affiliate of the Dress for Success organization.
Rows of slacks, suits, blouses, shoes, scarves and jewelry are all meticulously displayed so that when women come in to find that perfect combination for a job interview, they will leave feeling "uplifted," according to Golden.
Golden explained that her first business suit from the boutique made her feel confident and lifted her self-esteem immediately.
"You feel you are going to get what you are looking for," she added.
Golden is currently working part-time and is enrolled full-time at MCDI in its medical office training program. She will participate in an internship at an area medical facility starting in late November where her coding and medical terminology skills will be tested.
When Golden isn't studying, she's at home looking after Justina, 13, Marvin Jr., 15, and Ariel, 17, and keeping in close contact with her oldest daughter, Nina, 23. Golden noted that she and Nina attend PWG gatherings together. Golden also proudly notes she has one grandson, Jonathan Ramos, five months.
Golden is among the many women who have come through the doors of the Dress for Success program since its founding in 1999 and have left more confident about landing a job. As the economy worsens, more women are finding it harder to pay for a business suit and the accessories they need for a job interview. That's where Dress for Success can make a difference in a woman's life, according to Joanne Rollins, executive director, Dress for Success Western Massachusetts.
Non-profit and government agencies can make referrals to the Dress for Success program; however, women must have an interview scheduled before receiving clothing. Clients come from a diverse group of job training programs, homeless and domestic violence shelters, and educational institutions.
Dress for Success Western Massachusetts relies on funding from grants, individual donations and two major fundraisers each year to keep the program solvent. A Holiday Silent Auction is one of the major fundraisers and is planned for Nov. 6 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Greek Cultural Center, 8 Plainfield St. Auction items at press time include a host of gift certificates, a golf bag, a variety of themed gift baskets, two Southwest airline tickets, a one-month membership to Healthtrax, restaurant certificates and more. Admission tickets are $10 per person.
Rollins noted that the mission for Dress for Success is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women like Golden thrive in work and life. Rollins is supported by an active board of directors who are dedicated to helping other women succeed.
During a visit to the boutique, Jennifer D'Amour, vice president of the board of directors, was also on hand to tout the program and its successes.
"In 2007, we assisted 464 women and this year we are on track to assist approximately 500," said D'Amour.
D'Amour said that the first time she attended a Dress for Success event, she was "amazed" to see the pride, self-esteem and empowerment the women embodied once they were given the opportunity to wear a new business suit.
Rollins and D'Amour encourage area residents to stop in and support the silent auction since all funds raised will help make a difference in the lives of women in the Greater Springfield area.
"Attending and supporting this event will assist us at Dress for Success in continuing to provide services to more than 400 women yearly," said D'Amour.
Rollins also noted she is still accepting fall and winter clothing that is suitable for interviews. All clothing must be clean and on hangers.
"To judge whether an item is appropriate, ask yourself whether you would wear it to an interview," she said.
Currently, Rollins is also in need of pant suits, shoes, jewelry, new hosiery, shells to complement suits, jackets and blazers, dresses, slacks, purses and scarves. Plus sizes up to size 30 are especially needed at this time. Unused cosmetics and lotions are also sought. Donations may be dropped off at the boutique on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information on the organization, including how to make monetary donations, visit www.dressforsuccess.org. For tickets to the silent auction, contact Rollins at 732-8179.