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Organization that outfits low-income workers says it desperately needs cash to keep operating

Posted by Megan McKee  August 19, 2010 09:00 AM

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A Framingham-based non-profit that provides professional work clothes to needy men and women said it must slash its services unless it gets a large infusion of cash donations.

A Suitable Image has been providing work-appropriate clothes to low-income people for eight years and has helped 2,000 people, but board member Regina Norfolk said the organization needs $75,000 to make up for lost support from grants, as well as corporations and foundations that have cut back on philanthropic giving.

“We’re in crisis,” said Norfolk, who added that demand for services has jumped 32 percent in the past year. “Since we lost so many of the larger grants, we’re looking for a larger corporation to take us under the wing.”

The organization’s total budget for next year is $96,000, and that money pays for two full-time staff members, rent, and utilities, said Norfolk. The clothes are donated. Last year, the organization had raised enough money but the disparity this year is so great that the organization is making a public appeal for help.

Norfolk said the increase in demand over the past year is largely attributable to adding services for men 18 months ago. A Suitable Image is the only organization in the state that helps men get professional work clothes, she said.

She said the organization can operate at its current level for about two months. After that, they’ll start cutting operating hours and services unless they get more money.

“That would be devastating,” said Norfolk.

Clients must be referred to A Suitable Image via social service agencies, and the organization works with more than 80 groups, said Norfolk. Some clients need suits for job interviews while others need pairs of chinos and button-up shirts, she said.

After clients start working, they can return to the organization and get five outfits to get their work wardrobes started. Staff members keep in touch with clients as they continue to work, and offer additional clothing as seasons change.

Executive Director Linda Brooks, who takes care of daily operations as well all the fundraising, said continuing this work is imperative.

“If we are forced to cut back on our programs as the numbers of individuals needing our assistance continues to rise, there will be thousands of men and women who will be left without assistance,” said Brooks. “We need an immediate infusion of cash to keep this vital service moving forward,” said Brooks.

“We’re a great agency and we help a ton of people,” said Norfolk. “This is not going to frivolous extras.”

People and groups who want to help can visit www.suitableimage.org for details on giving.

Megan McKee can be reached at megan.mckee@gmail.com.

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