Dress to Succeed Provides Clothing, Job Coaching to Returning Citizens

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — In 2015, Elisa Hosey was in a tough situation.

The money she earned took care of housing expenses and the needs of her child, but didn’t leave anything for a professional wardrobe, she said. That’s when she found help with Dress to Succeed, a free clothing program that helped her immensely.

“Without Dress to Succeed, I wouldn’t have a working wardrobe,” Hosey said. “I was able to put that money that I was going to use on myself into my child and keep my house running.”

Dress to Succeed is a nonprofit organization under the umbrella of Action, a faith-based community organization that works to improve the quality of life in Youngstown. Hosey now works for both organizations, and is assistant director for Dress to Succeed.

The free clothing store is open by appointment only from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday at the Mill Creek Community Center on Glenwood Avenue. Those interested in setting up an appointment or making a donation can call 234 855 8512.

“It’s a lot of quality clothes here,” Hosey said. “They come in clean, they come in gently used, they come in given with love.”

Donations are made by local consignment shops like Penny Pinchers and Love Thy Curves, as well as area residents, said Director Taunya Bourne. Men’s clothes are displayed on metallic racks in one room and include suits, khaki pants and jeans, shoes, ties and other necessities.

Women’s clothes are displayed in another room, along with some jewelry. Bourne and Hosey say some children’s clothes are available for those who need that service.

“This year, we’re going to take a stash and keep it because with the pandemic we wanted to make sure we had some kids clothes,” Bourne said.

The program is designed to provide dignity to an individual facing a difficult situation. Clientele mostly include individuals moving from prison into a halfway house or entering the workforce.

Dress to Succeed helps individuals prepare a wardrobe for finding their next job.

“Some of them don’t know how to do resumes or anything like that,” Bourne said. “There are those who don’t know how to put a dress code together. They don’t always wear suits to interviews. Sometimes they wear a nice pair of cotton Dockers or slacks, long, dress shirts. They don’t have to wear ties, but we also have ties.”

Other clients may have lost their homes and possessions because of fire or other disaster, Bourne said. Agencies such as Sojourner House, Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley and Mahoning Youngstown Community Action Partnership typically refer four or five individuals at a time, she said.

“We average 300 for the month, but it’s declining right now because of everything that’s going on,” Bourne said. “This year we might get half of that, but we’re not going to claim that yet.”

Dress to Succeed also keeps displays of clothes at the Community Corrections Association, the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown and Trumbull County Correctional Institution in Leavittsburg. Because of the pandemic, volunteers can’t get into those places to help individuals heading to a halfway house, so clothes are just dropped off at the facilities.

Bourne’s mother, Rosetta Carter, started Dress to Succeed nine years ago. Carter is the executive director of Action.

In addition to the free clothes, volunteers help individuals coordinate their outfits, Bourne said. But there’s more to the program than just the closet.

Hosey, Bourne and other volunteers each have clients they work with to enhance their skills to enter the workforce. Bourne, who is the front office receptionist at Mahoning County Children Services, says if clients need their resume written, Dress to Succeed is happy to help.

She also coaches clients on interviewing for a job and relates to them with her own experience when she moved to the area from Texas about a decade ago, she said. She advises clients to make sure they have their credentials, bring any necessary items the employer requires and walk in with confidence.

“Walk in as if you got the job even if you don’t, but just walk in as if you were going to get the job,” said Bourne.

She emphasizes clients to keep eye contact with the employer, avoid using slang during the interview and, above all, be punctual. If the interview is at 1 p.m., “be there at a quarter to one, or maybe even 12:30 p.m., because you might have to fill out another application,” she said.

Timeliness is the hardest thing to convey to job seekers, and it’s something Bourne is adamant about. She tells clients to know their interview time and to do a practice run there to make sure they know where they are going, and be familiar with landmarks, she said.

If someone else is driving and the interview is at 1 p.m., she advises clients to tell their driver the interview is at 12:30 p.m., she said. Honesty and courtesy are two qualities employers look for in candidates.

Even with her job at Mahoning County Children Services, Bourne said she strives to arrive a half hour early.

“I’ve always been punctual,” Bourne said. “If something goes awry, I’ll always tell them to be honest with people, especially the clients and your supervisors and everything like that. I’ve never had a problem, but I do convey that punctuality is a must.”

Bourne estimates Dress to Succeed helps about 25 individuals annually find employment.

Helping individuals succeed through the organizations has given Hosey renewed focus. She’s no longer focusing on her shortcomings and is instead making the best of things with a house, job and healthy children. Seeing the situations of others “makes you want to help and makes you want to uplift someone else,” she said.

“It’s like, if I’m making my way in this world, let me see who I can help bring up with me,” Hosey said. “It’s not about let’s focus on why you’re hurting. Let’s focus on how we can get you past that hurt so you can become your best version of you.”

Pictured at top: Dress to Succeed Director Taunya Bourne and Elisa Hosey, assistant director, show off a display.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.