Community PARtners: A Success Story

ImageImagine seeing someone’s life turn around before your eyes. A woman who has struggled, financially and emotionally, is preparing for a long-awaited job interview. She has come quietly into a shop and is browsing through a selection of professional clothing. For the first time in her life, she tries on a business suit and emerges tentatively from the dressing room. Looking in the mirror, her face suddenly changes. She has a new look of confidence because she can see it now: She can imagine herself in a professional environment. She is ready to take her life in a new direction. This woman is what Dress for Success is all about—and she is the reason that PAR is delighted to support the DFS Tampa Chapter.

Founded in 1997, Dress for Success is a not-for-profit organization offering services designed to help clients find and retain good jobs. At the Tampa chapter, Dr. Heather Ureksoy, a member of PAR’s Research and Development team, has been an active volunteer, serving not only as a volunteer coordinator and shop manager but also organizing an apparel drive here at PAR that garnered more than 300 articles of gently used professional clothing for women making a fresh start in the job market. In October this year, Heather organized an Excess Inventory Sale to raise funds for the purchase of more plus-sized suits for the DFS boutique. During the two-day sale, PAR employees donated their time to work at the event, while others came to shop.

“Our clients are referred to DFS through various service agencies in the Tampa Bay area,” Heather explains. “In 2012 so far, we have suited approximately 950 clients—and we have also expanded our career center to accommodate more mock interviews, résumé consultations, and technology classes.”

Since its inception almost 35 years ago, PAR has been giving back to the community, and employees are actively engaged in a wide range of community service projects. When Heather came to PAR two years ago, she was happy to be part of an organization that supported her volunteer work. “I knew I wanted to do something to give back,” she says, “but I had no idea how much I would love it! PAR provides a paid day off for employees to do volunteer work. Bob and Cathy [Smith, founders of PAR] have created a real culture of giving throughout the company.”

Clearly, Dress for Success is about much more than just finding appropriate clothing for a job interview. “It’s very personal,” says Heather. “The women we serve want to tell their story. They’ve all had some sort of struggle, and they’re getting back on their feet. Tears are shed! It can be exhausting, but it’s so rewarding. And when they find the right suit—their whole face transforms. It’s really beautiful.”

To learn more about Dress for Success, visit www.dressforsuccess.org and click on the Locations link to find your local chapter.

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