Jean Simmons and the Clothing Drive for Working Wardrobes

DentalXChange and its employees have an unparalleled passion for helping our community and the world at-large. The EHG Fund was created through this passion and is led by a committee of DentalXChange employees called, DXCares.

One of the first philanthropies the DXCares team wanted to work with was Working Wardrobes. Founded in 1990, Working Wardrobes has changed the lives of nearly 90,000 men, women, veterans, and young adults overcoming difficult challenges by providing numerous services relating to professional clothing, employment, career, financial education and life skills.

Jean Simmons
Jean Simmons

We talked to Jean Simmons, who organized and led the charge for the DXCares team in this project, and asked her what DentalXChange is doing to help Working Wardrobes and the impact it can have on our community.

 

 

How is Working Wardrobes helping our community?

Working Wardrobes partners with local organizations who have helped Orange County residents through alcohol and substance abuse, domestic violence, incarceration, homelessness, catastrophic illness, and traumatic financial loss. These organizations identify clients who have transitioned through their hardships and have reached a point where they are ready to re-enter the workforce or enter the workforce for the first time. This is where Working Wardrobes comes in and provides job training and certifications, resume assistance, and wardrobing assistance as a final piece to helping these clients come out of such a difficult season in their lives.

Working Wardrobes also has a comprehensive program specifically for veterans called VetNet in which they provide an expanded selection of services to our veterans. Clients may have been engineers in the military for example, but having worked in the military their entire lives have no idea how to enter the world of Corporate America. Obviously, they are also helping veterans who may have suffered from PTSD or who simply entered the military at a young age and never had a chance to experience Corporate America before deploying to Afghanistan and have now come home and need a little assistance. Working Wardrobes provides comprehensive services for all types of veterans who are in different places in their lives and help them to not only find employment, but to secure meaningful careers.

 

How did the DXCares get involved with Working Wardrobes?

The EHG Philanthropy Committee, DXCares, takes member suggestions each quarter for a cause or organization to work with. Members had previously called out for participation in a clothing drive, but with the fall, winter, and spring quarters that passed the places that seemed like they had a larger need were food pantries and homeless shelters so we previously focused our efforts there. Now that we had entered our summer quarter we thought post-spring cleaning would be a good time to do a clothing drive.

Of course, we could have done a generic drive and donated to Goodwill for example, but I had previously donated to Working Wardrobes personally and thought that such a small, local organization that was working on such a specific focus would be a place where we could truly make an impact. Unlike Goodwill, Working Wardrobes specifically looks for interview and corporate attire to distribute directly to clients at the end of their job training who have interviews lined up. If you donate a suit, you are 100% sure that this suit is going to help someone improve their quality of life. Doing a drive where you donate items, you don’t really get to see if you are impacting people and though it sounds selfish, some people have a hard time donating to a place like Goodwill because you have no way of knowing if people who need those items are getting them. With Working Wardrobes though, you know for sure that you are helping woman who were previously abused, youths who’s previous living situation caused them to run away, veterans who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms; and it’s so much easier to motivate participation when people can feel that they are helping other people. You remove the idea of donating to a faceless needy through an impersonal organization and start to give to real people who would get the best use out of that tie you hadn’t worn in 15 years or that skirt you still have even though you haven’t been able to fit it for the past 3 years.

In addition to the opportunity to do a clothing drive, we also had the opportunity to send volunteers to Working Wardrobe’s donation center and help to quality control and organize items that had been donated.

What was your favorite part of this project?

Working Wardrobes has a very small staff. The donation center accepts anywhere from 3000 – 9000 items per week on average and there are only 2 women who are staffed at the donation center. Most of the work at the donation center gets done with the help of volunteers. I’d say one of the best parts of the project was seeing these ladies hug and thank the DentalXChange volunteers for the help; for volunteering their time and for donating items. I feel like we should be enthusiastically thanking these 2 ladies for all the work that they do. It’s a huge undertaking and they do it every day. Their genuine appreciation and joy was really something to see. They are the real heroes.

 

What more can people do to help?

Because the organization is called Working Wardrobes a lot of people associate them with wardrobe assistance. The thing is, providing clients with wardrobes is literally the last step in the process and just the icing on the cake. Aside from wardrobing they also offer job training and certifications. During our volunteer time at the organization we were told that aside from the fact that they offer nationally recognized certificate programs to their clients, they actually offer volunteers the chance to sign up to teach classes. Generally, the job training that Working Wardrobes provides focusses around soft skills as this is what most employers report as the top skills they are looking for. With the certifications they offer, these may include retail/customer service certification, fork lift training, warehouse related certifications, but not necessarily program related certifications like Word or Excel for example. Volunteers have the opportunity to come in and teach a class on literally anything. If your area of expertise is coding, you can teach a class on the basics of coding. If you are an Excel expert, you can teach a class on Excel. Donating clothes or volunteering in the donation center, you are indeed impacting the lives of Working Wardrobes clients, but indirectly. Offering to teach a class on something that you are an expert in, in this type of setting you have the opportunity to directly impact a client.

 

How did volunteering affect you personally?

I want to say that volunteering is not a reflection on one’s self. Truthfully speaking we’ve all had someone in our lives who probably just gave us a little boost. Maybe a previous boss or coworker, or a parent or friend or extended family member who just saw that we had a potential for something and in their own way encouraged us in that direction. It’s very counter cultural to say or think, this at-risk youth, their unimaginable circumstances encouraged them toward creating a better life for themselves. That’s just not how we think in our society. We would say something like, I volunteer because it makes me feel good, and of course, there is nothing wrong with that. But I would say that this at-risk youth who didn’t allow their circumstances to destroy them, who instead turned those circumstances into positive growth in their life, they really do deserve my attention and the attention of our society at large. They deserve the opportunity to have a good job, just like I’ve been afforded that opportunity through the encouragement of parents, friends, coworkers and previous bosses so why wouldn’t I offer it freely. I don’t necessarily feel affected personally by this experience but rather I would challenge everyone to fulfill their duty to become someone else’s boost, even in such a small way. In my head I’ve never really reflected on how volunteering would personally affect me, but rather see it as an opportunity to pay it forward.

 

We’d like to thank Jean for taking the time to talk to us about this important organization. If you would like to learn more about Working Wardrobes, please visit their website www.workingwardrobes.org. To learn more about how the EHG Fund, please visit www.ehgfund.org.

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Lindsey Schurman in Liberia – Day 5

In May 2016, Lindsey Schurman, Manager of Client Services at DentalXChange and a representative of the EHG Fund, went to Monrovia, Liberia to attend Full Learning Center’s Conference to see firsthand, the changes and challenges the Full Circle Learning has had to deal with to help that community. She was king enough to write a daily log so we can read about her adventures. 

Day 5 – The Final Day

20160528_204601Day 5 began with a power outage at the Full Circle Learning Office. While they attempted to resolve this, Teresa, Beauty, Justin, and I sat over breakfast and discussed the future topics of the day. This was our day to review the conference, its successes, what follow up should occur and areas that can be grown in the next conference. While we passed the time, we talked about different strategies the teachers and schools can use to help get parents involved in the child’s education and how to help children exhibit the “habits of heart” outside of the classroom with items such as homework around the specific trait, pre-school year conferences, a parent university to coincide the students curriculum.

20160528_135556We then went to the Full Circle Learning office and spent the day devising ways to leverage the strengths of this conference over the next year and to plan the next conference, where we could improve on such an already successful program and to further grow the program in Liberia. In August, there will be a training held for an expected 3000 teachers that will grow the program in Liberia from 81 schools to 103 schools. This training will be provided by 72 trained volunteers. There were also an additional 30 people at the conference that aspire to become a trainer. Full Circle Learning has also organized follow up sessions to connect NGOs with teachers to allow for community involvement in schools and assist in the growth of students across Liberia. We received feedback from three schools who were able to come say good bye to us and thank us for our visits and participation.

Everyone involved with the program in Liberia was so appreciative of our attendance and excited for the opportunity to work alongside Teresa!

To learn about more about Lindsey’s trip and how it affected her, please read her post trip interview by clicking here.

 

Lindsey Schurman In Liberia – Day 4

Lindsey Int PhotoIn May 2016, Lindsey Schurman, Manager of Client Services atDentalXChange and a representative of the EHG Fund, went to Monrovia, Liberia to attend Full Learning Center’s Conference to see firsthand, the changes and challenges the Full Circle Learning has had to deal with to help that community. She was king enough to write a daily log so we can read about her adventures. 

Day 4 

20160527_104823We were lucky to start day 4 without rain. This allowed us to visit two schools outside of Monrovia, Korto and New Hope. The schools were about an hour’s drive away. This was not because it was a long distance away but required a large distance of driving over unpaved roads to get to the school. These roads were difficult to drive along and required much care. This is the case for most roads that lead to villages in Liberia. Davidson explained that the road to Korto had been slated for paving multiple times but when it came time to pave the road they were told by the government there was no money.

The school in Korto had planned to do a service project in town this Friday but was unable to due to the weather of the week. This is an area that has faced a great amount of gender based violence and one of the classes had planned a project to go out in to the community to ask about what ways they could do something in the community to prevent it. Instead we were able to visit the classrooms of each grade to meet the students. The school was no bigger than the 2 floors of our office building but there are currently just over 500 students enrolled. Additionally, the principal shared that over 100 students had left over the course of the year due to the inability to afford tuition.

Each class welcomed us and we had the opportunity to see some of the lessons. We entered the preschool class as they practiced their ABC’s, the first grade class as they practiced reading and the twelfth grade class as they spoke about the age of imperialism. We got to speak with teachers from all grade levels during a quick recess and watch the children play.

kids-school-yardWe then went to New Hope, a school that has remained tuition free to allow students the ability to attend school when they would otherwise be unable to. The director of this school was sick with typhoid at the time and was not able to make it to the school to meet us. Unfortunately when we arrived, school was done for the day but several children remained for the afternoon. Two girls were preparing for a performance on Saturday and we got to see them dance in traditional African outfits. I received a tour of the school from one of the teachers. Each of the classrooms I saw was small with only a few desks; in some cases, 2 or 3 grade levels were taught in the same room. After the tour I was told about what the school had done to assist with learning during the Ebola crisis. At the time, schools, business, government programs, etc. were closed and people were very afraid to go outside and interact due to the easy spread of the disease. It was described as a ghost town. In order to continue educating students that wished to continue learning, this particular school held classes underneath the mango trees just outside the grounds. The classes were so popular students had to be turned away when class size got to big to maintain.

After visiting schools, we drove to central Monrovia where we went to a library run by a program called We Care Liberia. This program and library were started to encourage pleasure reading, which would assist with the literacy problem in Liberia. The program also publishes books by Liberian authors to promote writing from the community. Several students were using the space to study and a volunteer with the library was giving a talk on Early Childhood Development and the necessity of literature in this process.

20160527_172453It was a very enlightening day that ended with pizza in central Monrovia followed by reviewing the newspaper articles that published a review of our conference from the day before with glowing remarks!

Lindsey Schurman In Liberia – Day 3


Lindsey Int PhotoIn May 2016, Lindsey Schurman, Manager of Client Services atDentalXChange and a representative of the EHG Fund, went to Monrovia, Liberia to attend Full Learning Center’s Conference to see firsthand, the changes and challenges the Full Circle Learning has had to deal with to help that community. She was king enough to write a daily log so we can read about her adventures. 

Day 3 – Education as Community Transformation

Today was such an inspirational and information packed day that I don’t know where to begin…

20160526_095438After arriving at a wonderfully decorated hall done by the volunteers of the FCL we started off by setting up the presentation then attempting to assist with registration as people began to flood in right before 10am. Once again, we had been hit with very bad rains overnight that made the attendance of so many that much more special. By the time we began, most of the seating was full and we were still waiting for 2 schools to arrive.

The conference started with a bang featuring speeches regarding the current state of education in Liberia and how change begins with programs like Full Circle Learning, as well as a speech focusing on the integrity of the community and instilling this in the children beyond the classroom.

20160526_105134Next, children from all 5 schools in attendance sang a song together. Davidson then walked through the program, thanked all those in attendance and spoke of the goals of the day. We were then able to see a presentation by two schools, one a quiz setup by elementary school children about modes of transportation and a role play portraying the importance of personal character.

Teresa then gave a speech about the Full Circle Learning organization. We were taught so much about the history of the curriculum, the locations and projects made out of Full Circle Learning, as well as the ideals that impact students, teachers, and parents alike in building a better community. It was inspiring to hear about the growth in Liberia alone! Since 2010, Full Circle Learning has been brought to 81 schools in Liberia with more wanting to be involved! The programs impacted by the EHG Fund stretch 5 counties in Liberia and impacts so many lives. Besides Liberia, this program has reached so many other countries as well. The impact of the program was felt in the room as so many people came together to hear and learn more.Teachers Lib

After Teresa was finished we heard from a student and two teachers about the service projects completed in schools. Beauty shared a story about the death of her mother and the initiative and compassion shown by her students in her time of mourning. The children collected food and helped raise funds and brought it to the funeral home and mourned with Beauty during her time of need. The story brought many people to tears, me included.

The day continued on with an open discussion about changes that can be made by the teachers, organizations looking to enhance education and the students themselves. More powerful speeches were given relating to changing the community that included ideas from different sectors. The entire day flew by as we played clapping games instead of applause and heard jokes from the emcee.

The conference was such a success across the board! You could see the excitement for participation from each group of attendees. It was such an honor to be a part of today. And the next one is already in planning!

IBe A Candle finished my day by quizzing Teresa about her life experiences and the journey Full Circle Learning has taken over the last 24 years. Tomorrow, we visit schools and hope for no rain so we can complete a service project with the kids.

Lindsey Schurman In Liberia – Day 2

Lindsey Int PhotoIn May 2016, Lindsey Schurman, Manager of Client Services at DentalXChange and a representative of the EHG Fund, went to Monrovia, Liberia to attend Full Learning Center’s Conference to see firsthand, the changes and challenges the Full Circle Learning has had to deal with to help that community. She was king enough to write a daily log so we can read about her adventures. 

Day 2

Delegation of NGOs meet at conference (1)Last night there was a torrential downpour that washed out our agricultural project scheduled for this morning and delayed the arrival of Dr. Teresa Langness, the President and Founder of Full Circle Learning. Davidson, Justin, Beauty (the director of the FCL program in Zambia) and I started the morning discussing the conference with a number of people involved in the planning. We went over the scheme of events, made any changes to the plan and brainstormed creative ways to manage the great number of people expected to attend. Davidson is still receiving calls from new individuals that want to be involved and the expected number of attendees is over 300 including the Minister of Education in Liberia! They are anticipating at least 50 students and up to 200 teachers.

We spent the next couple of hours compiling the packets for tomorrow’s attendees while the fans attempted to cool us (me) in the heat of the day. Several stories were shared of the positive experiences that have come out of the program. I was brought to tears by the teamwork and leadership of the children that are taught by teachers like Beauty. I know I will hear so many more stories at the conference tomorrow.

20160526_084359We then adventured to the venue and planned all decorations needed from town.  The available pieces and options were very limited and I will be surprised to see how so many people will fit in such a small space tomorrow. The five of us followed up this trip with another adventure to town where I got to try some rice with greens and fish Davidson had and I got to see how people drive, as if road lanes are a suggestion. I also got to experience the different cityscapes Monrovia has to offer. The streets were crowded with vendors and people. Monrovia has not been what I expected but also not what I am used to.

Today has been an experience in learning so much more of the curriculum Full Circle Learning is teaching, the difference it is making and learning about daily life in Liberia (and Zambia from Beauty). I even had Davidson teach me some words in their local language! The language uses English words and shortens them by taking letters off the end.

20160528_131724The day ended with dinner with Dr. Langness, where she told me about the beginnings of Full Circle Learning and her individual experiences with each of the different communities that have become a part of the FCL family. She is an inspiration to all.

 

To read about Lindsey’s Day 1 adventure click here.

Lindsey Schurman In Liberia – Day 1

Lindsey Int PhotoIn May 2016, Lindsey Schurman, Manager of Client Services at DentalXChange and a representative of the EHG Fund, went to Monrovia, Liberia to attend Full Learning Center’s Conference to see firsthand, the changes and challenges the Full Circle Learning has had to deal with to help that community. She was king enough to write a daily log so we can read about her adventures. 

Day 1 

I am now in Liberia! After 3 long flights, I’ve finally made it.

Getting off the plane we walked out onto the tarmac to board a bus and I instantly noticed the incredible humidity. It is very hot and rainy here. During my journey I was lucky to meet another man traveling to Liberia to see his wife. He really helped by getting me through the customs process. Upon reaching the terminal, we washed our hands and had our temperature taken; these are new requirements due to the Ebola outbreak over the last few years.

20160525_160316After getting through customs, I was a bit lost and confused. Thankfully, I was quickly greeted by Davidson, the Program Director of the Full Circle Learning – Liberia and Justin, a volunteer for the program, who helped me to the car to begin our drive to Monrovia.

20160525_160926We drove for about an hour from the airport to Sinkor, where the hotel is located, just outside Monrovia. Over the course of the drive, Davidson showed me different sites along the road. I asked questions about the war that took place up until 1995 and the impact Ebola had on the Full Circle Learning program as schools had been shut down at that time.

Due to the overnight flight I spent the afternoon resting. I look forward to meeting the other Full Circle Learning friends that will be arriving today.

After a wonderful resting period and dinner, I went for a walk with two of the girls that volunteer with Full Circle Learning. I was able to walk by their office and see the hustle and bustle of the early evening in Monrovia. The girls told me about the seasons and some about life in Liberia.

Tomorrow we will be participating in an agricultural project and I have planned another walk to see some more of the city with Betsy.

Check back next week to read Day 2 of Lindsey’s adventure in Liberia. 

Lindsey Schurman and Her Time in Liberia

“I can only hope I go through my everyday life caring about others in the ways I saw Liberians do” – Lindsey SchurmanLindsey Int Photo

The EHG Funds’ commitment to helping the community and the world abroad is a direct reflection of the employees of DentalXChange. Their unparalleled passion for wanting a better future for the children of our world has lead us to find like-minded organizations to help support; organizations like the Full Circle Learning Center.

Full Circle Learning was launched following the civil unrest of 1992 in Los Angeles, to help children caught in the maelstrom of the times. Its early volunteers from various community organizations served the Baldwin Hills neighborhood, working in space donated by the Baha’i community. They found the need for long-term, organic change and designed a curriculum that would help students develop a deeper sense of purpose for their learning and in their lives. The research-based, time-tested educational approach that was developed quickly attracted the interest of the broader learning community and is now taught all over the world.

In May 2016, Lindsey Schurman, Manager of Client Services at DentalXChange and a representative of the EHG Fund, went to Monrovia, Liberia to attend Full Learning Center’s Conference to see firsthand, the changes and challenges the Full Circle Learning has had to deal with to help that community.

We sat down with Lindsey and asked her to give some details about her trip.

How did you get involved with the EHG Fund?

I had been aware of the EHG Fund throughout working at DentalXChange and encouraged providers to donate based on their claim submission throughout my history with DXC but my involvement has been more recent, when I took the time to find out what Full Circle Learning is doing for the global community. In Liberia, I was aware of the difference they were making with girls in a community that is deeply impacted by gender violence.

What is the EHG Fund doing to help Full Circle Learning?

Teachers LibThe EHG Fund has helped to facilitate Full Circle Learning’s exponential growth over the last 10+ years. Specifically in Liberia, the program has only been in the country for 6 years and has grown to 81 schools with many more on the horizon. In August, they expect to hold a training seminar for 3000 teachers and school administrators, which will bring the school count to over 100 in Liberia.

What is the age range of the kids in school?

I met children of all grade levels K-12.

What is the curriculum that they are teaching these children?

Kids School yardThe curriculum is what is required by the state but when teachers are trained in the Full Circle Learning program they are able to shape it to include ideas that promote community building, leadership and humanitarianism.

Did you participate in any activities while at the conference or with the schools? 

I did participate in some activities at the conference. I sat with the Non-Governmental Officials at the conference and had an open guided discussion about how we can help kids incorporate the theme of the conference into their lives outside of the classroom. We also discussed facilitating the growth of the Full Circle Learning ideas in the classroom by getting involved with the teachers and administrators. We had 2 projects planned for our trip, 1 agricultural project and 1 marketplace project, but both were unfortunately canceled due to rain..

What was your favorite part of your trip?

It is hard to pick a favorite part. I think if I had to narrow it down, I would choose watching people (the ministry, teachers, school principals, and FCL) speak so passionately about what they want to change in Liberia’s current education system and what needs to change. It was inspiring!

What more can people do to help?

Be A CandleDonations are key for Full Circle Learning. Currently in Liberia, they are planning to host a training seminar for 3000 teachers and require funds to set this up and provide each school with Full Circle curriculum. Funds from the program go toward training teachers, providing them with the curriculum books and other resources needed to continue the program, transportation and food for the trainings, and a small stipend for staff of the program.

How did this trip affect you personally?

Lindsey withComing out of the trip, I have a much better understanding of life in Liberia and Full Circle Learning. On a personal level, there were multiple times during the trip I had to step outside my comfort zone in order to move forward with my day. One example, there was no running water is most of the buildings I visited, which meant putting water in your own toilet. I was able to see firsthand how communal their society is and how they work together for the betterment of their children. I can only hope I go through my everyday life caring about others in the ways I saw Liberians do.

 

We thank Lindsey for her efforts with the EHG Fund and for taking the time to talk to us. Lindsey has written a daily log for her adventures in Liberia and we will be featuring them each week on this Blog, starting next week.

If you would like to donate to the EHG Fund or learn more about whom we support, click here.