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story.lead_photo.caption Dress For Success Northwest Arkansas Success Ambassadors (from left) Brenda Mooney, Julie Gilbreth, Tangel Clinard and (standing) Anca Hornyak will be honored at the Oct. 5 Dress for Success Little Black Dress Dinner Party. (Not pictured are Success Ambassadors Veronica Jones, Judith Yanez, Mary Ann Hooks and Debbie James.)

"We have a reputation for providing clothes to women, and that's an important first step, but we are so much more than that," says Virginia Germann, Dress for Success Northwest Arkansas executive director. Germann is in her second year at the helm of the organization, which collects, organizes and distributes professional clothing to women working to improve their economic and educational situations. But, as Germann notes, the assistance doesn't stop there. The organization also offers job training, workshops and networking opportunities to further help ensure success for its clients. And, promises Germann, the organization will be drilling deeper in the near future.

"We are on a path toward collective impact and providing tools and resources to break the cycle of poverty," she says. She's been studying how the strategies of other successful Dress for Success affiliates can translate to the Northwest Arkansas community. "We're going to be looking at longer-term goals rather than immediate outcomes, so we can really understand and engage our clients on a deeper level to change whole families and the next generation."

How to Help

Participate in the 5K Run and Power Walk on Nov. 11. Call (479) 276-3433.

Volunteer to help with suitings or career workshops and mentoring. Visit northwestarkansas.dressforsuccess.org/get-involved/volunteer to sign up.

Donate gently used clothing (coats, business sweaters, and rubber-soled non-slip black flats are in serious need) at 100 N. Dixieland Road, Suite B8, Rogers (inside the Frisco Station Mall). Check the website for days that donations are accepted.

Women in need of assistance from Dress for Success can request a referral to the organization from either Goodwill or the Samaritan Shop.

Client Tangel Clinard says her referral from Goodwill was the start of a two-year relationship with Dress for Success that has helped her improve her economic situation.

"I was transitioning from one job to another, so Goodwill gave me a referral to go to Dress for Success for assistance and guidance and to help me get to the next level of my career," says Clinard. "They suited me with proper attire. It was a very enjoyable process. After my interview, I had a job offer, and Dress for Success provided me with a week's worth of clothing. I thought that was just phenomenal and unexpected -- they prepared me for the workforce by providing me with the proper attire."

Clinard says that assistance from the organization didn't end there. After about a year in that position, she reached out again for help.

"I called them and said, 'Hey, I'm ready to seek out better opportunities with a higher income,' and they were having a networking event that Walmart recruiters were going to attend," remembers Clinard. "So I was able to talk to them there and share my goals." Today, she's celebrating her first year as a Walmart employee.

Clinard says that the organization's workshops were instrumental in preparing her for interviews and eventual job placement.

"The workshops allowed me to basically take a 360 degree look at myself and just be able to think about what I needed to change and improve," she says.

Clinard will be celebrated on Oct. 5 as the organization's Ambassador of the Year at the Little Black Dress event, an annual dinner party where volunteers, clients, partnering agencies and corporations are honored.

"We will have a table of our ambassadors, and this year they're going to participate in the presentation as a group," says Germann. "[Clinard], as Ambassador of the Year, will share her story for the audience."

The evening includes a dinner created by a variety of notable area chefs that includes Chef Rob Nelson from Tusk & Trotter and Chef Mandy Pankhurst from Blu Restaurant & Fresh Market.

By the end of the year, Germann says she hopes the organization will reach its goal of helping 1,000 women in Northwest Arkansas in just four years, and the Little Black Dress Event is her opportunity to thank all those involved who are contributing to that aim.

"Our mission [is] to help women gain financial independence," she says. "We can't do that without a network of support. And, yes, it's all of us who work here, but it's also the community. They truly are our network of support. We wouldn't be able to help these women without that support. It goes beyond the dollars and the donations of clothes; it includes the people that hire the women that network with us and give them jobs. These are the people that are going to help our clients go even further."

Other ways to help: Participate in the organization's 5K Run and Power Walk on Nov. 11, which, Germann says, will be signing up teams in addition to individuals for the first time. Operations Manager Tracy Green says that they are also always in need of volunteers, especially those who can offer help with resumes, career workshops and mentoring. And, of course, women's professional clothing is a welcome donation. With winter on its way, coats and business-style sweaters -- like cardigans -- are high on the "most wanted" list, as are rubber-soled, non-slip black flats that can be worn comfortably in retail and restaurant jobs.

Your donation of time or clothing could make a big difference in someone's life, says Clinard.

"I feel like I've moved into a different stage of my career now," she says. "I'm building up my confidence. I'm prepared for things in life now. I know how to handle it. I have different strategies. It has been a great experience for me. My feet are pointed in the right direction, and I am moving forward. The relationships I have planted are there to help me and my family to continuously grow.

"I'm definitely not the same person that I was when I was first introduced to Dress for Success."

NAN Profiles on 09/24/2017

Print Headline: Dress for Success gives women more than professional clothes

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