Thank you for your interest in assisting The Working Wardrobe in our mission to improve the economic independence of low-income women in Southeastern Pennsylvania. 90% of the clothes women receive when they are referred to the Wardrobe come from individuals who donate their "gently" used careerwear clothing to help another woman.
Clothing Donation Information: Currently the Wardrobe is accepting FALL and WINTER women's professional clothing and accessories. Clothing should be clean, pressed and on hangers. Acceptable items include: business suits, separates (blouses, skirts, pants, jackets), handbags, shoes, jewelry and unused hosiery. Please keep in mind that we are preparing women to make a good first impression in their interview and only donate things that you would feel comfortable wearing to an interview. We are always in need of plus size (14-32) and smaller (size 2-4) clothing!
THE WORKING WARDROBE Frequently Asked Questions:
HISTORY: The Working Wardrobe was created in 1995 by a group of working women to address the marketability of economically disadvantaged women striving to achieve economic self-sufficiency for themselves and their families. Working in partnership with over 120 job training programs, domestic violence shelters and other social service agencies throughout the Delaware Valley, The Working Wardrobe provides free interview-appropriate clothing and support services to women who are transitioning from welfare to work or beginning a life free from domestic violence. In order to meet client demand, The Working Wardrobe operates two dressing suites, one in Center City Philadelphia and a second in West Chester, PA (Chester County) and serves women from throughout the Delaware Valley (Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Lancaster Counties in PA).
With the passage of Pennsylvania's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) legislation and the implementation of welfare-to-work deadlines, the number of low-income women completing job training programs and seeking employment has drastically increased throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania. Under the TANF reform measures, welfare recipients are required to secure work during their first two years on welfare. After that, they must work an average of 20 hours a week to keep cash assistance with a five-year lifetime limit on benefits. In a report released by the Department of Public Welfare in December 1999, approximately 102,000 families in Pennsylvania, half of who live in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties, still received welfare benefits as of September 1999.
Besides job training, it is critical that these women receive the supplemental services that are available from The Working Wardrobe to make the transition from dependency on welfare to economic independence. The expense of purchasing retail clothing alone can prevent an individual from successfully seeking and securing employment. There is a greater need today for the services of the Wardrobe than was ever anticipated, and with welfare reform, that need has both accelerated and drastically increased.
CLIENT PROFILE: Approximately 20% of the Wardrobe's clients are women are between the ages of 17 and 25 and 80% are between the ages of 26 through 65. Additionally, 85% are single parents, heads of household, with an average of 4 children. A survey of the Wardrobe's clientele shows that 67% are African American, 20% are Caucasian, 10% are Latino and 3% are Asian American.
NUMBER OF WOMEN SERVED: The Working Wardrobe has outfitted over 14,000 women since its inception. Currently, the Wardrobe serves an average of 600 women each month. Approximately 77% of the organization's clients report having obtained employment, thanks in large part to the services provided by The Working Wardrobe.
COMMUNITY PARTNERS: The Working Wardrobe partners with over 120 social service agencies throughout the Delaware Valley who identify and refer women to the Wardrobe. Any non-profit social service organization that serves low-income women can apply to be a Working Wardrobe Referral Partner. The Wardrobe, however, gives priority based on clothing inventory and funding limitations to job-training programs, domestic violence shelters and transitional housing programs. Nearly all of the Wardrobe's clothing comes from individual donors who bring donations to monthly clothing drives or participate in drives that are sponsored by local religious organizations, sororities or corporations. The Working Wardrobe also partners with local retailers such as Charming Shoppes (Fashion Bug) to secure donations of new clothing.
VOLUNTEERS and STAFF: The Working Wardrobe's activities are governed by a Board of Directors consisting of retired and currently working women who volunteer at least 5 hours a month assisting with the Wardrobe's programs. The Wardrobe recently hired its first full-time Executive Director who is responsible for the day-to-day management of the organization along with program development and fundraising. The Wardrobe employs two Program Coordinators who organize program activities at the organization's two sites and a part-time Program Associate who is responsible for database management and tracking client outcomes.
PROGRAMMING INITIATIVES IN 2001: In 2001 The Working Wardrobe will focus on expanding it services to provide job readiness support services for our clients and better respond to their needs, including:
Working Wardrobe on Wheels addresses a major barrier women confront while trying to transition from welfare to work in rural Chester County ñ lack of adequate public transportation. In its first year, Working Wardrobe on Wheels will enable women enrolled in 10 job-training programs in Southern Chester County to access the Wardrobe's services without having to find transportation to our West Chester dressing suite by bringing their new wardrobe straight to them. The Wardrobe's West Chester office Program Coordinator will schedule appointments on-site with each referral partner near the end of their training cycle and bring several pieces of clothing in each client's size so that they will several styles of clothing to choose from that best suits their personality and scheduled job interview.
A Job Readiness Skills Workshop Series is currently being developed by Working Wardrobe volunteers with expertise in fashion, financial management, human resources and presentation skills. In the early spring of 2001, the Wardrobe will begin marketing a series of workshops on job readiness skills such as: Raising a Family on a Budget, Landing and KEEPING Your Job, Creating a Working Wardrobe for Success and Everything You Need to Know About How to Interview for a Job to the organization's 120 referral partners.
Working To Be Free: Increasing the Economic Independence of Battered Women is a program designed to expand The Working Wardrobe's services to women who are experiencing or recovering from domestic violence and transitioning from welfare to work. Through Working To Be Free, The Working Wardrobe will sponsor domestic violence intervention workshops to women identified by our referral partners as needing assistance (i.e. job training programs, domestic violence shelters and transitional housing programs for homeless and/or formerly incarcerated women). By attending Working To Be Free, participants will also be eligible to receive interview and work-appropriate clothing, at no cost, and related job readiness support services as they search for full-time employment.
For more information The Working Wardrobe, please call: Sheri Cole, Executive Director, at 215-568-6693
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