ABC7 Salutes

Program helps those in need dress for success

Monday, May 11, 2009

We all know how important it is to dress for success. But it can be an expensive proposition, especially if you've been out of work.

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In Marin County, there's a program that's been helping low income people get back into the work force, for ten years now.

Meet the personal shoppers who will take Carol Ann Wentworth on a shopping spree, at no charge to her.

This is Image for Success in San Rafael. It provides two weeks of clothing, including new underwear, shoes and accessories to individuals and families.

They are referred here by 60 agencies helping the underserved in Marin County.

"You see somebody come in and you can tell from their posture and body language that they're not feeling too good about themselves. You can see them walk out an hour later, transformed," said Penelope More from Image for Success.

There are separate areas of clothing that are as varied as a retail store, with choices for every age.

"My children were big, they were growing," said Melinda McCall.

McCall-Fleming was referred to image for success with her three children eight years ago. She had been laid off from a medical assisting job.

"It was a start to help me build confidence and feel accepted in living in Marin," said McCall.

One of her sons, 11 years old at the time, really noticed the difference.

"He was like mom, I don't know what you've done or where you've came from but he said just go back and get more of it," said McCall.

"And that was because," asked ABC7's Cheryl Jennings.

"He said that was because he had never seen me smile before," said McCall.

Now she runs her own business selling cosmetics.

"I worked in non-profit off and on for 20 years," said Wentworth.

Wentworth never thought she'd wind up asking for charity. She was a former Executive Director of the Sausalito Chamber of Commerce.

But, the weak economy forced Carol and her husband to lose their business, the Northpoint Coffee Shop.

Now Image for Success is helping her prepare for a different career.

"I'm just very grateful," said Wentworth.

"You can't get a job if you're not properly dressed," said Image for Success Founder Barbara Lee.

Image for Success was started in 1999 by Barbara Lee, after President Clinton signed the welfare to work bill into law. She learned one San Rafael agency had 40 women ready to go to work, who didn't have any business clothes.

"So we started and it was borrowing clothes from my children, myself, from friends to try to get some clothes," said Lee.

Barbara's eyes teared up, as she told me why she started the children's department.

"A woman came and she had her children with her, and it was a drizzly day, and the children had no shoes," said Lee.

Now, kids can even choose toys thanks to generous donors. Everything is lovingly sorted and categorized by 60 active volunteers.

Susan Freedman started as a volunteer nearly 10 years ago and Natalie Sandell six years ago. It is all to help people in need.

"We couldn't do this program without donations from our community, certainly of clothing and we sometimes have donors who bring in packages of underwear, or help us with kids shoes, or brand new jackets," said Deirdre Sheerin from Image for Success.

"Now, people will say I took my clothes to image for success, so we've become a part of the community," said Lee.

So tonight ABC7 salutes Barbara Lee, for founding Image for Success in San Rafael.

Related links:

  • Image for Success
  • Image for Success mission statement

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