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For A Greater Cause June Spotlight: Dress For Success

The path to financial stability is not an easy one. Many struggle to transition into the workforce after completing school, especially those who are lacking the resources needed to flourish in the professional world. There are countless tools available online to help guide you in your job search, but if you have never put together a resume or can’t afford the proper attire to wear for an interview, this can be extremely discouraging. That is where Dress for Success is stepping up.

Dress for Success is an international non-profit organization with affiliates in 30 countries across the globe. Nickole Hendra, Executive Director of the SW Florida location, has been with the organization since September of 2016, and recognized first-hand the outstanding need for career prep for women in our community. She explains, “When funding ended for a Walmart Foundation program we offered, we noticed there was a huge need for career prep tailored to women in Southwest Florida. We noticed the problem and came up with a solution.”

Out of that insight came W.E.T.E.S, or Women Empowered Through Employment Series, an employer driven program, which is tailored to women of all backgrounds and ages that need help polishing their professional skills. The 7-week program consists of resume building, networking tips, interviewing practice, and career advice from various mentors in the community.

One of the programs greatest success stories is Sherrie Page, who was looking for a career change and needed some guidance. She says, “Three days after the hurricane I was in a terrible car accident and lost my job. I was looking on the internet, and an ad came up on Facebook saying Dress for Success SW Florida would be having classes.” Thanks to a simple post on social media, Sherrie was able to connect with numerous professionals in the community, and took note of the valuable advice they shared.

“One of the mentors had a contact with Children’s Network. They gave me a great tip that I otherwise wouldn’t have even thought about. They said, ‘Make sure you research the company before going for an interview, and when you finish always be sure to get the email address of whoever you met with.’” With that small yet monumental bit of advice, Sherrie was able to take action, a decision that would later prove to be a determining factor in her success.

“When I researched Children’s Network, I realized they were having an open house for prospective foster parents. After my interview, I made sure to email the interviewers and let them know I was going to attend their open house. When I went, the hiring supervisor was there and remembered me, and she ended up calling me the very next day to offer me the job. Thanks to Dress for Success, I now have a new career in a new field and am so excited. I wouldn’t have thought about emailing them the next day if not for Dress for Success.”

Not only does W.E.T.E.S provide professional guidance and support for women, but they also offer clothing to each participant in the program, free of charge. Nickole says, “Having daughters of my own, I know how expensive it is to buy an interview outfit or get ready for a job.” Their Fort Myers location resembles a well-organized closet, fully stocked with gently used dresses, suits, shoes, jewelry and handbags. Most of the items look brand new, which is important when giving young women the confidence needed to nail their big interview.

Currently, Dress for Success SW Florida serves women of Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties by referral only. However, Nickole adds, “We will never turn away a woman who needs help.” They are also beginning to offer the W.E.T.E.S program in Spanish and Creole in order to accommodate a growing demographic of Southwest Floridian’s who do not speak fluent English.

Dress for Success SW Florida is always in need of donations, specifically gently worn business attire for women of all sizes. To learn more about this organization and how you can support their cause, visit SWFlorida.dressforsuccess.org.