Dress For Success Mercer County’s Suits For Sandy: Helping Women Succeed After Hurricane Sandy

Kaitlin Burkhardt smiles after her suiting by personal shopper volunteer Nancy Musco at Dress for Success Mercer County’s Suits for Sandy event. (Photo courtesy of Dress for Success Mercer County)

Kaitlin Burkhardt smiles after her suiting by personal shopper volunteer Nancy Musco at Dress for Success Mercer County’s Suits for Sandy event. (Photo courtesy of Dress for Success Mercer County)

LAWRENCEVILLE — A few weeks ago, 25 volunteers from Dress for Success Mercer County loaded their cars with business clothing, shoes and laptop computers and headed to Christ Episcopal Church in Toms River. Their goal was to help women in the shore communities who had lost their belongings in Hurricane Sandy and now needed business attire and career services to get back to work.

Suits for Sandy extended Dress for Success Mercer County’s mission of helping disadvantaged women achieve success and confidence in the workplace by providing their services to women whose professional lives were interrupted by Hurricane Sandy. By now, the women were at a point in their rebuilding process where they were ready to focus on getting back to work or a job search or finding a new career.

Several Dress for Success Mercer County volunteers from Monmouth and Ocean counties experienced losses from Hurricane Sandy and wanted to help other women who were also impacted.

“We recognized that there was a need to assist women whose employment circumstances were forever changed due to the storm.” said Executive Director Lorrie Klaric. “Women whose places of business were destroyed are finding themselves unemployed and in need of career services. Where do you start when you haven’t prepared a resume or looked for a job in years? How do you rebuild your wardrobe and your career, when you need to do everything simultaneously?”

“Our mission is to support women in need with a network of support – including personalized career tools and business attire. Our team found a way to turn the devastating circumstances into a positive way to give back to the community,” said Klaric.

Twenty women of all ages came from Monmouth or Ocean counties that Friday night or Saturday to take advantage of the free resume and interviewing advice, professional customized suiting and make-up tips. The women met individually with volunteer teams organized as personal shoppers who helped them choose a custom outfits, as well as career counselors who reviewed resumes and discussed job search techniques and Mary-Kay consultants, who donated their services to complete the women’s transformations.

“I’ve been a personal shopper and volunteer for about five months and working one on one with clients is always a rewarding experience. The women we saw at Suits for Sandy were different from Dress for Success Mercer County’s typical client. They may have had a home, employment and an established career, but because of Hurricane Sandy lost something or everything” said The College of New Jersey student Beth Dempsey, who is interning at Dress for Success Mercer County this semester. “My goal was to help the women and give them a fun suiting experience.”

Beth’s mother shared her experience as a first time personal shopper volunteer. “When I volunteered to help today I thought I knew what to expect having heard about the experience from my daughter who is a regular volunteer. It was much more than I expected” said Gloria Dempsey. “Dress for Success Mercer County is filling a worthwhile and needed step in the process of helping women find jobs in today’s market no matter their situation.”

Since 2007 Dress for Success Mercer County has been helping women in six counties achieve confidence and success in the workplace. They provide free services to job ready clients by referral. Services include: professional attire, resume writing, interview coaching, career counseling, job retention and career advancement skills. It is a volunteer-run organization with opportunities for community participation. For more information, visit www.dressforsuccess.org/mercercounty.

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