Dress for Success starts with providing an outfit for an underprivileged woman to wear to a job interview. But the non-profit program that opened its doors last week in Reno provides a lot more than that.
“Women are surrounded by supportive women,” Patti Pietsch Weiske, founder of the Reno-Northern Nevada branch of Dress for Success, told about 80 supporters gathered Oct. 19 at Arlington Towers to celebrate the beginning of the organization in the region. “It’s not just a suit, it’s a hand to hold.”
Weiske noted that many of their clients are single mothers in need of that extra level of support. Not only does Dress for Success provide clients with professional attire, but volunteers help them overcome other challenges that might be holding them back from being able to support themselves and their families.
“Like everyone else, I’m not immune to challenges and to tough situations,” Weiske told the NNBW. “I’ve been one of them (in need) and I’ve met a lot of people going through tough situations.”
Weiske, who has been a Reno resident for 30 years, noted how important it is to feel confident when going to a job interview. New clothes that look professional and fit properly are an important element to build that confidence.
“I know how empowering it is,” she said. “It is important to us (as women), it’s important to feel good.”
Dress for Success is a nonprofit program that began 20 years ago in New York.
Since then, 1 million women have been served in 150 cities in 28 countries.
Weiske began the process to open a Dress for Success affiliate in Reno three years ago and was approved last year.
Working with businesses and organizations such as Reno Engineering and the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN), Dress for Success Reno-Northern Nevada acquired an office and boutique space on the ground floor of Arlington Towers in downtown Reno.
The organization currently has 50 volunteers ready to staff the office and boutique, as well numerous people who have donated professional-style clothing and accessories.
Clients are referred from other organizations. When a client secures a job interview, Dress for Success provides her at no charge one interview outfit including shoes and accessories. When she lands a job, she can return for up to one week’s worth of career attire.
In addition, Dress for Success helps women find the resources they need to overcome obstacles to finding and retaining employment.
“Jobs are a key part of our mission,” said Mike Kazmierski, president and CEO of EDAWN, which is partnering with Dress for Success.
He noted the need to remember the human element, which can be overshadowed by efforts to bring new companies to the region and growing those already here.
“When we see one person get a job, we see it affects the family. It affects their lives,” he added. “When you give a few people a hand up, they become an engaged part of the community” and can better enjoy what the community has to offer.
Giving women a hand up is what Dress for Success is all about.
“If we change one life, one family, we’re moving in the right direction,” Weiske said. “We could change thousands.”