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INDIANAPOLIS — As hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers file for unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic, one local organization is expanding its offerings to help more women find meaningful employment.
Dress for Success Indy is a nonprofit organization working to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire, and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.
"When the stay-at-home executive order hit in March, like all the other nonprofits and businesses in the state, we had to shut our doors down," said Julie Petr, Dress for Success Indy executive director Julie Petr. "Now this of course coincided with what now has become almost half a million Hoosiers who have lost their jobs."
The Dress For Success Indy team pivoted their services quickly to meet the growing demand for services.
The nonprofit is ready to address the needs of the unemployed with interview attire, job placement training, and professional development. The organization has been transitioning its current offerings to a new model that will allow more women to access its critical employment services during this pandemic and beyond, while also maintaining the health and safety of clients, staff, and volunteers.
"And what we found within a matter of two or three weeks was that we were servicing women not just in the Indianapolis metropolitan area but we were serving women who were actually outside of Indianapolis," Petr said. "Women who might not necessarily have been able to come to the 820 Meridian boutique. The virtual offerings will not be something that will go away. We found, like I said, in a matter of just a few weeks, we were servicing the number of women that we expected to serve in all of 2020."
Including job seekers like Carmen Malone.
She has a background in business, customer service, and clinical research and has been searching for a job since before the pandemic hit.
She was using resources at her local Work One location, but when the pandemic forced organizations to close, she didn't want to lose her progress.
A friend recommended Dress for Success, and she has been participating in virtual class offerings.
"At the virtual classes that I have attended, it creates a sense of community and I'm able to learn from the other women that are there," Malone said. "The presenters and the staff have been so open and patient and I really feel like they want to help me succeed."
Some of those virtual workshops included personal branding, creating a productive home office, and having the opportunity to receive virtual coaching.
"What Dress for Success has offered has really helped me," Malone said. "I believe that it has expanded my job search and even just my outlook on getting a particular job that I want."
Companies like Bank of America are playing a critical role by providing ongoing support through grants that allow organizations like Dress for Success Indy to continue to respond to the growing needs in the community now and in the months ahead.
In March, Bank of America committed $100 million to support local communities in need.
The majority of Bank of America's funds were distributed on the ground in local markets, including here in Indianapolis, to address immediate basic human needs like health care and hunger facing the community and provide support needed in the months ahead to help with economic recovery.
"As our local market team looked for organizations that are providing support to the community during the coronavirus, Dress for Success drew our attention," said Andy Crask, Indianapolis Market President for Bank of America. "We knew they would be highly effective in helping our unemployed and under-employed neighbors find new and better jobs once businesses began re-opening and hiring again."
Crask says Dress for Success Indianapolis addresses several of the needs faced by the local community.
"The job market is going to be very competitive, and the hiring process looks very different as a result of the coronavirus disruption," Crask said. "Supporting organizations that can help individuals look and sound their best during virtual interviews and teach them how to navigate a world that is now mostly online is an important place for us to invest in the community. Dress for Success Indianapolis has done a great job adjusting during this unprecedented time by offering virtual employment workshops and webinars focusing on current trends in recruitment and hiring to prepare applicants with career guidance that helps them succeed in the current climate."
Malone says she was nervous when the pandemic hit that her job search would become even more challenging, but the volunteers at Dress for Success Indy helped to keep her spirits up during this trying time.
"So keep searching, get connected with an organization like Dress for Success, and I believe that a good job is waiting for us, I really do," Malone said.
Dress for Success Indy plans to continue offering virtual classes due to their expanded abilities to reach more women, and they are also reopening their professional attire offerings curbside this month.
They are also planning for its big fundraiser this fall, Stepping Out in Style, and more details will be forthcoming about plans and possible virtual elements for social distancing.
Dress for Success Indy needs financial support in order to serve this growing need for women in central Indiana.
They can use donations of professional attire. During the month of June, you can take donations to Classic Cleaners locations.
They are also looking for more volunteers.
To get involved in this cause, donate, or attend virtual workshops, just go visit its website for more information.