Finding a job requires training, persistence and talent, but it also takes a decent wardrobe--you can't show up for an interview in a torn T-shirt and ragged jeans and expect to make a good first impression.
Just ask Dress-4-Success founder Janet Lavender, who began the nonprofit organization about 18 months ago to provide professional clothing for low-income individuals seeking employment.
Nearly four years ago, Lavender said, she was out of a job and homeless. She scammed people out of pocket change by telling them her car had broken down.
"I found my biggest problem was having the money to get the clothes to go back to work," Lavender said. "Clothing is the thing that gives you the esteem to get out there and start working."
Since then, Lavender said, she has put her experience to use by helping more then 1,200 people make a good first impression. Every week, nearly 200 people look through the 10-by-15-foot Dress-4-Success closet at the Greater Avenues for Independence site in Panorama City.
The welfare-to-work program, run by the county Office of Education under a contract with the Department of Public Social Services, teaches job preparation skills.
For many, like Tonya Dunbar of Panorama City, the closet provides the finishing touch to help ensure success. Dunbar said she is scheduled to start work at a baby accessory store Monday.
The first thing her future employer did was compliment her clothing--a black, beige and gray jacket and black leather skirt, she said.
"It really helped my confidence," said Dunbar, 28, who has been off and on welfare since 1995. "I sat down, and it just felt like I was at home. I just felt great and decided to go for it."
Despite its success stories, Lavender said her organization has several needs, such as space. She is holding nearly 200 items at her house in North Hollywood, where she runs the administrative side of the organization. Also, Dress-4-Success needs men's clothing, she said.
Anyone wishing to donate items, volunteer time or offer space, may call (818) 753-8245.