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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