Wardrobe for Opportunity Celebrates with Spring to Success Luncheon May 10

"Find a Job, Keep a Job, and Build a Career." These are the three goals articulated by Wardrobe for Opportunity (WFO), the Oakland-based nonprofit that partners with the community to help low-income individuals become economically self-sufficient.

The successful and growing nonprofit organization empowers clients from across the Bay Area by providing a full suite of services related to often-overlooked aspects of the work world, such as interview skills, professional clothing, and networking for career advancement.

"We address critical barriers to finding and retaining employment," notes Darice Jones, Executive Director. Since its founding in 1995, WFO has served nearly 20,000 low-income individuals who have been referred from over 150 social service and job-training agencies in the region. Its client base includes a wide swath of the economically disadvantaged: 80 percent are single parents, 73 percent receive government assistance, and 85 percent are minorities. "Our programs consistently help our clients overcome challenges to accomplish their goals and achieve success."

WFO's first steps zero in on building a professional image. Operating two clothing boutiques, in Oakland and Concord, WFO furnishes clients with appropriate attire and conducts workshops that help them achieve the physical look they want so they can "walk into the workplace with confidence and land a job," comments Sameer Bhasin, the agency's Corporate Partnership and Events Manager.

"We really want clients to know they are VIPs when they visit our boutiques," he continues. Volunteer stylists provide extensive personalized attention, helping clients choose items that fit their individual style and profession, right down to accessories like shoes and handbags. "We get comments from clients all the time about how embraced they feel during a styling appointment."

Held with the assistance of corporate partners, interview clinics are another significant piece of the WFO program. Jones describes the sessions as "speed-dating-style practice interviews" that give clients the opportunity to get feedback and find out where they need to do some skill-building. They are trained to regard the interview as a process that benefits from techniques like making eye contact and avoiding distractions.

Once WFO clients are hired, the next helpful step is a six-week career development course, Pathways. Here they learn about the "soft" side of professional behavior-how to ask for a raise or take on more responsibility, all with the aim of maintaining stability in the workplace. Unlike its partners, who provide training in job skills, "WFO is one of only a handful of organizations nationwide that focuses on retention," Jones points out.

To celebrate the accomplishments of all its stakeholders, WFO will hold its annual Spring to Success luncheon on Friday, May 10, at the San Ramon Marriott. A highlight is the announcement of the agency's Client of the Year awards. The recipients, one man and one woman, have been selected through a nomination process based on narratives prepared by the candidates of their personal development and growth. Chaired by WFO board member Nate Thomas, Small Business Specialist at U.S. Bank, the event includes volunteer recognition, entertainment, and a fund-raising silent auction.

For information on tickets and participation options, contact Bhasin at sbhasin@wardrobe.org or (510) 463-4100 x212.

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