Merlene Davis: Dress for Success Lexington has found a home, plans to open in late September

Herald-Leader columnistAugust 21, 2013 

Jennifer Monarch, left, and Analisa Wagoner are the founders of Dress for Success Lexington.

  • IF YOU GO

    What: Volunteer training and orientation for Dress for Success Lexington, a new non-profit geared to helping women become self-sufficient.

    When: 10 a.m.- noon, Saturday.

    Where: Central Library, Room A, 140 E. Main St.

    Information: Email lexington@dressforsuccess.org; or visit Dress for Success Lexington on Facebook.

I wrote about Analisa Wagoner and Jennifer Monarch in April as they were being overrun by mounds of gently worn clothing.

They had run out of room for the generous donations from Lexington women who were more than willing to help their less fortunate sisters get on their feet.

A bit overwhelmed but definitely not discouraged, Wagoner and Monarch had been approved to start a local affiliate of the international Dress for Success program which provides professional attire, a support network and career development tools to help women become economically independent.

Now I am writing about them because they have secured a permanent home for Dress for Success Lexington in the Eastland Shopping Center. It will open in late September. The non-profit will be the second such program in Kentucky. Louisville's affiliate was established in 2000.

Wagoner said the new location is getting spruced up and painted, the furnace is being replaced and a dressing room is being added.

"We are still in that process," she said. "In the ideal, fingers-crossed time line, we may get the keys by the end of the week."

That will be followed by the addition of furniture and clothing racks.

Meanwhile, the women have scheduled the first of many mandatory orientation and training sessions for volunteers. People are needed in administration, inventory, fundraising, outreach and technical and graphic areas. Soon, there will be a need for volunteers in the career center to conduct mock interviews, offer job search tips and editing résumés and cover letters. The training session will be held at the Central Library downtown.

"That is where we held our start-up meeting in May," Wagoner said. "We have come so far since then. We've come full circle."

The sessions are geared to get everyone on the same page, she said. A video provided by the worldwide organization will be shown, featuring Joi Gordon, chief executive officer, who will talk about the program.

Those in attendance will be able to select their preferred area in which to help.

The Eastland site has more than 2,000 square feet of space and was the "last missing piece of the puzzle," Monarch said. It will be enough space for organized racks of professional clothing, two dressing rooms, an area with computers, and office space.

"With the space, we have everything we need to start helping women, which is our No.1 and only goal," she said.

Clients are helped through referral only, Wagoner said, and after completing a job training program through a government or social services agency.

The client then works with a volunteer personal shopper who helps her select appropriate attire and also provides support and encouragement as she prepares for job interviews.

After landing a job, the client can then return for more clothing and support.

On Sept. 19, referral agencies will be invited to an open house to learn about the program's mission. But that's not all the events being planned. On Oct. 1, Mayor Jim Gray will be on hand for the official opening.

And on Oct. 17, local designers, who have been given outfits that aren't suited for the workplace, will show off their skills in a Recycle the Runway fundraiser and fashion show at The Grand Reserve on Manchester Street.

Wagoner and Monarch are determined to see this program flourish. Considering where they started and where they are now, I wouldn't advise anyone to stand in their way.

It will be better for us to just get onboard.


IF YOU GO

What: Volunteer training and orientation for Dress for Success Lexington, a new non-profit geared to helping women become self-sufficient.

When: 10 a.m.- noon, Saturday.

Where: Central Library, Room A, 140 E. Main St.

Information: Email lexington@dressforsuccess.org; or visit Dress for Success Lexington on Facebook.

Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: mdavis1@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: merlenedavis.bloginky.com.

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