Helping jobless dress for success
In 2001, thinking she’d just “give away some suits,’’ Elizabeth Hart paid the rent on a 400-square-foot office space on Dartmouth Street in Malden.
“I thought it would be a hobby,’’ she said.
Over the past decade, Tailored for Success has provided free business attire, job readiness workshops, and confidence-building to thousands of the economically disadvantaged in the area who are attempting to enter or reenter the workforce. The ultimate goal is self-sufficiency.
On Sunday, the nonprofit is running a Fashion with a Purpose fund-raiser, featuring 10 clients - and their stories - as models. It will showcase not just the clothes, but the individuals’ successes. The nonprofit’s success, too.
During multiple expansions and relocations, Tailored for Success almost closed its doors three times before landing in its current 1,300-square-foot location on Washington Street South.
Operating on a $100,000 budget that covers rent, operating costs, workshops, and Hart’s salary, the organization manages to serve an endless list of clients. But there’s always more.
Grants help. A typical grant averages $5,000. The Adelaide Breed Bayrd Foundation, which helps only nonprofits located in Malden, is the nonprofit’s longest and biggest supporter.
In addition, Hart makes individual donor appeals and runs fund-raisers such as wine tastings. During the upcoming fashion show, each model’s story will be told as a way to provide inspiration, raise awareness, and gain more corporate partnerships and support.
“It’s been tough,’’ said Hart, a married mother of two sons who previously had been a paralegal at top Boston law firms. “But I never regret a day that I started this. I’d do it for free, but I can’t.’’
Thousands of women, about 5,000 to date, plus hundreds of teens and men - her newest clientele - are thankful Hart never gave up. One of them is Betsy Morton, who lost her bank job in 2005. Morton, a Malden resident, knew Hart from their days at Malden’s Lincoln Junior High, and rediscovered her at Woburn’s Career Place, where Hart was providing computer training. Hart brought Morton, a mother of three, to Tailored Impressions, the nonprofit’s retail boutique, to find some outfits for interviewing.
Morton couldn’t believe what she found. “When the public comes in to shop, they’re surprised to find brand names like
Clients meet privately with Hart when the store is closed to the public, “so Liz can give 100 percent,’’ Morton said. “They don’t just leave with clothes, they leave with confidence.’’
Both female and male clients echo that thought. A new suit on the outside, they say, can make them feel like a million bucks. Increased confidence in their appearance translates, it’s hoped, to a new job.
Getting the word out to men that a resource like this exists is key. Lack of knowledge, combined with pride, can prevent men from asking for help.
Morton also has attended a few workshops, including one offered by the financial firm Deloitte and Touch, LLP of Boston, one of the nonprofit’s corporate partners.
“Community service is very important at Deloitte,’’ said Danielle Fandrey, an audit senior manager from Newton. Now one of TFS’s board members, Fandrey first helped link her company with the Malden nonprofit.
“Liz is very passionate,’’ said Fandrey, who has been involved with the group for five years. “She takes every interaction so seriously. She puts her heart into it.’’
Karen Sparacio of Malden agreed. She runs her own nonprofit, Project Have Hope, which links schools and nonprofits to women in Uganda who make paper bead jewelry that the local group sells on their behalf.
The two women met at a women’s conference last spring in Boston. Immediately, Sparacio was impressed with Hart and her nonprofit group’s decade-long record.
“So often, nonprofits slip through the cracks. People look to larger organizations they’re familiar with, like Salvation Army, which is OK,’’ Sparacio said. “It’s just that [Tailored for Success] is a chance for people to get involved within their own community, whether by volunteering or donating. I often find it’s the smaller nonprofits that have the largest impact.’’
The fashion show will be held at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Malden Senior Center, 7 Washington St. Fashions will be provided by Proxy Apparel and CAbi. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door. For more information, go to tailoredforsuccess.org.