Improving Lives

Dress for Success expands with career center debut

Donovan M. Smith | 11/20/2013, 11:31 a.m.
Dress for Success Executive Director Barbara Attridge addresses supporters at Thursday’s grand opening of the group’s new Patricia Whiting Career Center at 1532 N.E. 37th Ave, Suite B. The nearly 15-year-old organization helps disadvantaged women find employment by providing them professional clothing and job skills free of charge. Photo by Donovan M. Smith

Dress for Success, a northeast Portland program designed to help disadvantaged women break into the corporate world with style, celebrated the debut of their brand new Patricia Whiting Career Center on Thursday.

Low income women who utilize the services of the non-profit are provided business-appropriate clothing, taking one of the big financial burdens off the job-hunting table. The clothes are donated by the community.

With the new career center at 1532 N.E. 37th Ave., Suite B, clients now have access to career search and job retention services in addition to individualized assistance with resumes and job searching.

Once a woman has secured a job, Dress for Success works with various service providers to help ensure they stay employed, and are moving forward in a financially stable career.

The new Patricia Whiting Career Center is named after the late community activist and former State Representative who rose out of poverty as a migrant worker and served three terms in the state capital. The center marks a momentous transition for leaders and patrons of Dress for Success after nearly 15 years of serving the public.

Clients that were once relegated to a small two-computer cubicle near the entrance of the building now have a large space comfortably housing four computers, and a full library of books covering everything from interview tips, to guides to entrepreneurship. The space even comes with a fully functional kitchen that will be mostly utilized by Dress for Success employees to provide free meals to women who attend their monthly Professional Women’s Group which is designed to sharpen both interpersonal and professional skills.

The additions were made possible with generous donations by Vince Whiting, Bank of America, Wal-Mart, and other community members.

“To actually have this dedicated space, that it’s professional, and it’s warm, and inviting—it’s going to allow us to do so much more with our clients,” said Barbara Attridge, Dress for Success executive director. “For me, it’s a career center, but it’s also a place for hope and possibilities for women.”

--Donovan M. Smith