Dress for Success is one organization that takes a professional look to heart by reaching back. Its mission is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life generally.
Founded in New York City in 1997, Dress for Success is an international not-for-profit organization offering services designed to help their clients find jobs and remain employed. Each client receives one suit when she has a job interview and can return for a second suit or separates when she finds work.
This week, "On Our Way To Wealthy" visits with Cheryl Bingham, the group's executive director.
Carlee McCullough: Tell us a little bit about yourself?
Cheryl Bingham: I am a native Memphian and a graduate of Manassas High School. I hold a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Fisk University in Nashville. I have a Masters in Education and Leadership from the University of Memphis. My career really began at LeMoyne-Owen College. I worked in the business office and then with the City of Memphis in the Community Action Agency as an accountant. I work at Southwest Community College, which is formerly known as State Tech, where I have spent over 30 years. I was the Director of Foundation Scholarship Program Alumni Affairs and Special Events. I am currently an adjunct professor at Southwest.
CM: What is a professional look?
CB: A professional appearance is a total package. You are selling yourself in the clothing that you wear. If you're serious, then you want to wear the earth tones – black, brown and gray – or other colors which are suitable for daytime wear. The total package is neat hair and nails that are a presentable length and neutral nail color. Also check your breath to make sure that you are fresh. Make sure that your shoes are presentable and not "run over."
CM: How does your organization assist clients?
CB: Our clients are referred to the agency to be "suited". They may have an upcoming interview the same day they come here. They may come in dressed one way but they leave out another. We have two outstanding volunteers, Ms. Ruby and Ms. Louise. hey will measure them and make a selection for them by picking out a suit for them to wear.
CM: What are some basic items a woman should have in her wardrobe?
CB: Black suit, white blouse, hosiery, shoes, scarf and a broche.
CM: How can I make a financial gift to Dress for Success?
CB: We invite guests to visit www.DressforSuccess.org/Memphis, click on Donations.
CM: How can I make a clothing donation and what type of clothing do you accept?
CB: We accept clothing that you would want to wear when you want to look your best.
CM: Is there an organization like Dress for Success for men?
CB: Not to my knowledge. However, we accept men's clothing for our upscale garage sale every year. We will be hosting it on May 2 at Idlewild Presbyterian Church on Union Ave. We will have men's and women's clothing, furniture and household items.
CM: How can I become a volunteer?
CB: They can call us and work in the office or they can be presenters in our career development program. Whatever their gifts or talents are, they can share it. They can also participate in COINS – "Circle of Influence Network Soiree," which is a gathering where individuals can invite folks out to their home, church or business to hear about Dress for Success. We hope that at that time, they will be so motivated they will take an envelope and put something in it.
CM: What is S.O.S. – Send One Suit – Weekend?
CB: March 8, 2013. People can take a new or slightly-used suit to Dress Barn here in the city for Dress for Success. After the suit drive, Dress Barn will pack them up and make sure that we receive those suits.
CM: Closing remarks?
CB: As the new director, our goal is to make sure that every client that walks through the door leaves with an enhanced sense of calling, support and career development and/or suited for it.