Dress for Success wins grant, opens career center for low-income women

2013-11-07T17:15:00Z 2013-11-08T13:46:13Z Dress for Success wins grant, opens career center for low-income womenBy CHRIS CIOFFI ccioffi@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Dress for Success has been helping women find the perfect outfit for job interviews for more than 14 years, and now the nonprofit can help clients land the interview too.

The Billings chapter of the nonprofit was one of 15 in the country to receive part of a $375,000 grant from Wal-Mart.

The $25,000 grant allowed Dress for Success to add a job training center to the list of services they provide to low-income women in addition to professional work clothes, shoes, accessories, makeup and haircuts free of charge.

“At the career center, they’re going to be able to work one-on-one with a career specialist to write a resume, search for jobs and find out what type of job fits them,” said Dress for Success Executive Director Julie Wickhorst.

The career center is located in two third-floor offices and offers laptops, Internet access, a job postings board and a resource library for women to come use after they “shop” for a new wardrobe at 304 N. 29th St.

“This is going to be a huge asset to the Billings community to help women find where they fit,” Wickhorst said.

More than 500 women are referred to Dress for Success each year from other agencies.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity for the women to build relationships with a mentor-like person and help them get that first job,” said Rachel Kitchens, the new director for career services at Dress for Success.

The career center will help women who may not qualify for services at other nonprofits.

“Our goal is to fill the gap,” she said.

Dress for Success is funded completely by donations by community members and local businesses, and the latest gift from Wal-Mart was particularly helpful.

“It’s the largest donation we’ve ever gotten,” Wickhorst said.

A giant check was presented to Dress for Success staff and volunteers by several Wal-Mart employees after a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday morning.

Flo McMasters, community event organizer at the West End Wal-Mart, said all the stores in Montana were rooting for Dress for Success to get the funding.

The stores got together and decided that Dress for Success was a worthy cause, and the application went to the national Wal-Mart Foundation for consideration.

They waited a long time before they found out that Dress for Success would receive the money.

“Our store manager was so tickled that they won, because helping people get back to work is very important to Wal-Mart,” she said.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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