Joanne Fleming is dressed for success. Sporting black slacks, a red blazer, gold earrings and a matching necklace, Fleming could easily be mistaken for a high-powered career woman on her lunch break.
Instead, Fleming is the grateful beneficiary of a new program at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. Dubbed the Job Smart Clothing project, the program provides unemployed men and women with gently used clothing to help them regain a place in the workforce.
“There’s an old saying, ‘When you look good, you feel good,’ and that’s our motto,” said Tasha Bryant, the project manager. “If people feel confident in what they’re wearing, they will interview better and make a great first impression with prospective employers.”
Fleming couldn’t agree more. At 46, she is unemployed and trying to work her way back into the mental health field, where she has experience as a psychiatric technician. Money is tight, so Fleming was thrilled to fill her wardrobe needs at Job Smart Clothing.
“When I dress professionally, I feel better and I can walk into an interview and really sell myself,” Fleming said. “If I look the part, it takes away some of that insecurity.”
Staffed by volunteers, Job Smart Clothing occupies several small rooms at the Food Bank’s headquarters in Oak Park. There are full-length mirrors, a dressing room and neatly organized clothing racks featuring everything from Calvin Klein dresses to Brooks Brothers suits – all donated.
To make each client’s shopping trip special, the program schedules one-on-one appointments and pairs shoppers with a volunteer, who suggests outfits appropriate to each person’s needs and career plans.
Volunteer Sayuri Sion, a retired military veteran, said she loves her Wednesday shifts serving as personal shopper for community members on the rebound.
“It’s rewarding and it’s honorable, helping people through these difficult transitions they’re facing,” Sion said as she straightened clothing racks. “And it’s a great feeling seeing them perk up and smile when you find a style and size that fits.”
Gina Garcia, 42, calls Sion and the program’s other volunteers “hidden angels.” Garcia, who is disabled, said the Food Bank’s wide variety of services have helped her journey out of homelessness to enrollment at Sacramento City College beginning next month.
“I’ve been through a lot of hardship, and the women here have fitted me in clothes and created a new me,” said Garcia, who is particularly appreciative of her new Ralph Lauren dress and penny loafers. “It brought up my self-esteem, and that had a domino effect on my life.”
Supported primarily by donations and fundraisers such as the Run to Feed the Hungry, the Food Bank provides more than 325,000 articles of clothing free to families each year. The Job Smart Clothing project serves a subset of that clientele, adults who typically have completed job skills training, counseling and interview coaching to help them find employment.
Program managers are asking Book of Dreams readers to help them purchase two professional-grade clothes steamers for donated clothing, which often arrives crumpled in bags, as well as additional clothing racks, a shoe resizing device and a gift card that could be used for emergency purchases, such as special work boots required by a specific employer.
Needed: Funds to bolster the Job Smart Clothing project.
2014 BOOK OF DREAMS
For more than 25 years, The Sacramento Bee’s Book of Dreams has helped people and organizations in our community realize their dreams. Their needs can be as simple as a pair of shoes for someone who is homeless; holiday baskets for low-income families or a shiny, new bike for a child. Whatever the dream, you can help by making a donation today.
All donations are tax deductible and none of the money received will be used for administrative costs. The Book of Dreams fund is administered by the Sacramento Region Community Foundation. If you donate online, the Region Foundation will appear on your statement.
If you have additional questions, please call the Book of Dreams line at (916) 556-5667. Donations will be accepted through Jan. 16.
* To claim a tax deduction for 2014, all donations must be postmarked by Dec. 31. All contributions are tax-deductible and none of the money received will be spent on administrative costs. Partial contributions are welcome on any item. In cases where more money is received than requested for a given need, the excess will be applied to meeting the unfulﬁlled needs in this Book of Dreams. Funds donated in excess of needs listed in this book will fulﬁll wishes received but not published and will be donated to social service agencies beneﬁting children at risk. The Sacramento Bee has veriﬁed the accuracy of the facts in each of these cases and we believe them to be bona ﬁde cases of need. However, The Sacramento Bee makes no claim, implied or otherwise, concerning their validity beyond the statement of these facts.
BOOK OF DREAMS WISHES
Here’s a list of wishes published so far in the series:
Dream: The nonprofit Communication Technology Education Center seeks funds for a speech-generating device to help people with severe language delays.
Needed: DynaVox T15
Dream: The Yolo County Care Continuum’s Farm to Mouth program needs gardening assistance.
Needed: Funds for a greenhouse on the farm.
Dream: Healing Hands, Healing Hearts nonprofit seeks help for its program that brings touch therapy to those with critical or terminal illnesses.
Needed: Equipment to help terminally ill patients.
Dream: The Food Literacy Center would like equipment to aid its programs that help children develop healthy eating habits by cooking and exploring nutritious foods.
Needed: Refrigerator, induction burners, aprons.
Dream: Loomis-based Kindred Spirits Fawn Rescue needs funds for improvements to accommodate growing numbers of orphans and better protect fawns from predators.
Needed: Additional fencing to accommodate a growing number of fawn orphans.
Dream: Representatives from the Serna Village in McClellan Park and the Sacramento Sheriff’s Bike Unit seek funds to provide area youths with needed bicycles.
Needed: 25 bikes for Serna Village; 50 bicycles for the Sheriff’s Bike Unit.
Cost: Bikes for Serna Village: $3,500; bikes for Sheriff’s Bike Unit: $7,200.
Dream: Funds are sought to aid the Furniture for Families program and Volunteers of America Bannon Family Shelter.
Needed: Cribs for Furniture for Families, toddler beds for Volunteers of America Bannon Family Shelter.
Cost: $2,500 for cribs, $2,000 for toddler beds.