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Alliance of Career Development Nonprofits
c/o The Women’s Alliance
1775 Eye Street, NW
Suite 1150
Washington, D.C. 20006

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1775 Eye Street, NW, Suite 1150
Washington, D.C. 20006
United States

We’re a growing network of career development nonprofits that provide business attire for women and men seeking work, empowering them to economic independence.

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Blog

 

 

[ACDN Interview Feature] Connie Golds, Executive Director, Desert Best Friend's Closet

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ACDN: How long have you been involved with your agency and the Alliance of Career Development Nonprofits?

CG: I am the founder of Desert Best Friend’s Closet (DBFC). We are approaching our 10-year anniversary later this year. We joined ACDN in 2011. I attend my first ACDN conference in Oklahoma City and felt like I met the most amazing group of professional women who would help shape DBFC into what it is today.

ACDN: What makes your organization special or unique?

CG: We are the only agency of our kind in our community. I also think what makes us special is that we have grown slowly, but strategically in the past 10 years. We started working out of our garages, then moved to our first space—rent free—after almost 2 years of collecting clothes and delivering to agencies. We now pay rent and are in a more accessible location.

ACDN: How has this work affected you?

CG: When you work in the nonprofit field, you start to see how great the needs are in your community. There are so many nonprofits providing very necessary support in the community.  I am proud to be someone who makes a difference in my everyday life.

ACDN: What is your biggest challenge as an Executive Director <in your role> and how are you overcoming this challenge?

CG: The biggest challenge as ED is not being able to do EVERYTHING that needs to be done. So, I need to pick and choose where to put my time and energy. Sometimes I make the right choice, but not always. I just wish there were more hours in the day!

ACDN: Tell us a success story about your organization.

CG: We are a service provider for the California Department of Rehabilitation. They send us their clients who have a “barrier to employment” and we help lower or eliminate those barriers. Becoming a qualified vendor for this state agency required us to align our policies and procedures with the state of California. It was a daunting task, especially for a small agency like DBFC, but we did it and received a three-year certification.

ACDN: Tell us a client story.

CG: We bring our Job Search Readiness program to the local Dept. of Probation once a quarter. Probation selects who participates. Last fall we met Brandon, 20 years old. Two weeks ago he showed up to “ring the bell of success.” What’s better than getting one job? Brandon had secured TWO jobs! He just beamed with pride when he came in to share his good news. In our business, it doesn’t get any better than that!

ACDN: If it were not for the Alliance of Career Development Nonprofits...

CG:  ...I would feel very isolated. Joining ACDN meant that we are part of a larger, professional development organization that provides peer, program and agency support. We would not have grown from a $5,000 annual budget to nearly $200K budget in the last 7 years without the assistance and guidance from ACDN. Plus, they really are a fun group of people whose company I enjoy!

 

Photos curtesy of Connie Golds, Desert Best Friend's Closet

Desert Best Friend's Closet (DBFC) is located in Palm Desert, CA and their  vision is for all Coachella Valley residents to be economically self-sufficient through employment. DBFC educates and empowers their clients for success in employment and life. Founded in 2008, DBFC has served nearly 4000 women and men. They became members of the Alliance of Career Development Nonprofits in 2011. 

 

[ACDN Interview Feature] Kathy Warner, President, First Impression, Inc.

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ACDN: How long have you been involved with your agency and the Alliance of Career Development Nonprofits (ACDN)?

KW: First Impression, Inc. was incorporated in December 2015, and we joined ACDN in October 2017.

ACDN: What makes your organization special or unique?

KW: What makes First Impression unique is our attention to servicing the client, we  make sure they have everything they need, including hair and makeup services.

ACDN: How has this work affected you?

KW: Working in the nonprofit sector has opened my eyes to the many struggles others in our community face. I am less judgmental of others and their situations.

ACDN: What is your biggest challenge leading First Impression, Inc. and how are you overcoming this challenge?

KW: The biggest challenge is what I don’t know. I have learned so much about running a business, working with people and maneuvering the nonprofit world.

ACDN: Tell us a success story about your organization. 

KW: Beginning this past September, we have held a sale, to create a revenue stream, which is open to the public and have been very blessed by the response of the community.

ACDN: Tell us a client story. 

KW: We worked with a young single mother of twins recently who was interviewing for a couple of different types of employment. One was with a cleaning service and the other was in the health care industry, in an office, which she was not sure she had what it takes to work in an office.  With our encouragement, we helped to dress her appropriately for both interviews, with an emphasis on the professional position. She was offered a position at both companies, but took the riskier job, partly because of the confidence she had and the confidence we showed in her. 

The following quote, is from her mom, “After my daughter’s appointment with First Impression, she practically floated into my house, filled with confidence and, in her words, feeling like ‘a million bucks’.  The clothing and accessories you helped her choose are perfect for her upcoming interviews, but it is what you did for her self-image that will truly carry her forward.  Thank you.”

ACDN: If it were not for the Alliance of Career Development Nonprofits...

KW: ...I would not have the opportunity to call a fellow ACDN member to find out what works for them and have them share all with me.  It is a blessing to have the resources.

First Impression, Inc. (Medina, OH) Photos curtesy of Kathy Warner. 

National Thrift Store Day: Shopping gives you endorphins

Gineyda Diaz, Operations Director, Bottomless Closet (New York, NY) & ACDN Board Member

Photo Credit: ACDN Member, Career Wardrobe

Photo Credit: ACDN Member, Career Wardrobe

Who doesn't love a good thrift store bargain? Finding that great vintage or previously owned top or pair of shoes can make your endorphins go through the roof. Man does that feel good!  At ACDN, we love when you shop resale because we know that your purchases benefit our members!

Did you know that every dollar you spend at one our member agencies’ resale boutiques goes directly to creating programs that are provided free of charge to individuals entering the workforce?

Half of our members have resale boutiques and 64% host events open to the public throughout the year. So yes! Your purchases can help people starting out in their careers!

Individuals come to our member agencies for clothing and interview coaching and leave with so much more. They leave with the confidence to ace their interviews knowing that they can make the right first impression – and that feels really good.

So go out and shop for that great renewed piece that your closet’s been begging for and help someone get on the right track in their career.

Below is a list of several of our members with resale boutiques. Find one close to you, go shop, get those endorphins going and share your best find from one of the ACDN Member resale boutiques. Use #NationalThriftShopDay and #ACDNResaleSupportsCareers with the photo or description of your great shopping finds.

Happy shopping!

Bloom Marin's Bloom Boutique (San Rafael, CA): http://www.bloommarin.org/shop  

Career Wardrobe's The Wardrobe Boutique (Philadelphia, PA): www.wardrobeboutique.org

Desert Best Friend's Closet's Boutique (Palm Desert, CA): http://www.bfcloset.org/SHOP-for-a-CAUSE1

Charity's Closet, Phil's Closet, Cherie Amour, Charity's First Picks (Savage, MD): http://www.successinstyle.org/charitys-closet/

Dreams to Reality's Dream Boutique (Jefferson City, MO): http://www.dreamstoreality-jc.org

Jackets for Jobs Boutique (Detroit, MI): www.jacketsforjobs.org

The Junior League of Elizabeth-Plainfield's Jumble Store (Cranford, NJ); http://www.jlepnj.org/jumble-store.html

Transforming Lives and Restoring Hope's Lily's Boutique (Roanoke Rapids, NC): http://tlrh.org/lilys/rr

WHW's Deja New (Costa Mesa, CA): http://whw.org/shop/shop-deja-new/

[ACDN Interview Feature] Shanna Moody, Founder and Executive Director, Shining Success

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Shanna Moody, Founder & Executive Director, Shining Success (Claremont, NH)

Shanna Moody, Founder & Executive Director, Shining Success (Claremont, NH)

ACDN:  How long have you been involved with your agency and a member of the Alliance of Career Development Nonprofits (ACDN)?

Shanna: Shining Success has been open since March 2011. My first ACDN Conference was Fall 2010.

ACDN: What makes your organization special or unique?

Shanna: We are a very small program serving a rural area. We are located on the border of New Hampshire and Vermont and therefore work to engage partners and clients in both states. We recently moved and our new location is in our beautiful historic district. We are co-located with another local ministry and our space is connected to the space next door, which is a third local ministry. We all have different purposes, but we serve many of the same clientele and can greatly affect our community from our central location.

ACDN: How has this work affected you?

Shanna: Working with clients at Shining Success humbles me. It’s easy to get a little caught up in “doing good” but the clients have such heart breaking stories of their pasts. And those stories are usually followed by courageous stories of how they moved forward. It’s our privilege that they have allowed us to be a part of their journey.

ACDN: What is the biggest challenge in your role and how are you overcoming this challenge?

Shanna: Being an Executive Director can get overwhelming... Like one of those circus acts that’s trying to balance all the spinning plates. Learning to ask for help is the key. Knowing I can contact any other member program is a huge help. Locally, joining my local Chamber of Commerce has opened doors for us to build a board and begin to find volunteers.

ACDN: Tell us about your signature event.

Shanna: We have held our "Cinderella Project" event for 7 years. Held each Spring, we host a two day event where over 750 gently-used, formal gowns are available to the community for proms, college formals and semi-formals. This year, Moira, a girl who came to last year's fundraiser came back to speak to guests at this year's event. It’s easy to get too concerned about the number of dresses that go out the door but we have always said that if just one girl finds a dress, then we have done our job. As Moira spoke, she confirmed our thinking. She spoke about her life and the reasons she couldn’t afford to buy a dress. She expressed gratitude about our event and how well she was treated and she ended by saying: “The way I was treated made me feel worthy of the dress I was wearing.” Moira is taking both dresses with her to college this year.  We are sure that the confidence she found goes with her as well because we strongly believe that there is power in a prom dress.

ACDN: Tell us a client story.

Shanna: Erica arrived at Shining Success just hours after she was released from prison. They had provided her an oversized grey sweat suit and a pair of cheap shower shoes. She is faced with rebuilding her life and didn’t even have a clean bra. During her appointment, we talked about all the tasks she had to accomplish over the next few days. She was so hopeful. She left with 3 or 4 outfits that could be used for job interviews and other important meetings. She also left with a brand new bra thanks to ACDN sponsor, Smart and Sexy. She was thrilled with her clothes and kept saying, “I can’t wait to come back and help you!! I’d love to volunteer.”

ACDN: Being a member of ACDN enables our agency to…

Shanna:have buying power for plus sized clothing and gain credibility by being a member of a national organization. It also enables us to visit wonderful cities and see fantastic closets at conference every year!!

If it were not for ACDN…

Shanna: ...Shining Success would not exist. ACDN was there for us before we even opened our doors. Every person is ready and willing to share knowledge and information. I love that there is no secrecy and that all the agencies are willing to help each other. It’s the support from all the other member programs that keeps our small program running.

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ACDN’s Interview Feature showcases ACDN Member leaders. This includes founders, executive directors, and program managers. The interviews offer a more in-depth perspective on the critical work our member agencies do throughout the year and demonstrates the impact on their community. 

 

[ACDN Interview Feature] Sharan McPadden, Co-Founder, Suit Yourself, Inc.

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Sharan McPadden

Sharan McPadden

ACDN:  How long have you been involved with your agency and the Alliance of Career Development Nonprofits (ACDN)?

Sharan: I have had the privilege of being part of Suit Yourself (SY) from the very beginning--before the organization even had a name. Suit Yourself Inc., was born based on a student’s request for professional attire for a job interview. A focus group was created of professional women in Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties who work with other non-profit organizations. After our initial meeting it was evident that there was a need in our area and the beginning planning stages of Suit Yourself, Inc. was launched in November of 2003. Suit Yourself, Inc. has been a member of ACDN since 2006. Several of our Board Members attended the first [ACDN] national conference held in Dayton, Ohio which gave us a strong foundation in establishing our organization.

ACDN: What makes your organization special or unique?

Sharan: Our two boutiques are located in Lake County and Ashtabula County. Lake is geographically the smallest county in Ohio; and neighboring Ashtabula County is geographically the largest county (and goes all the way to the Pennsylvania border). In spite of those challenges, we have an excellent working relationship with our network of referring agencies. We do not charge our referring agencies a fee.  Our well-run client referral process serves women who are actively job seeking or have a scheduled interview. However, we pride ourselves on our willingness to handle unique requests. Agency representatives know they can reach out directly to Suit Yourself to suit a client on Christmas eve so she can start a new job on December 26 or provide a week's worth of professional clothing to a woman in a domestic violence shelter on a Sunday so she can go to work the next day without her coworkers knowing about her situation.

Suit Yourself Inc. Founding Board Members: (left to right) Sharan McPadden, Barbara Britt, and Midge Mramor. Suit Yourself, located in Painesville, OH, has been a member of ACDN since 2006.

Suit Yourself Inc. Founding Board Members: (left to right) Sharan McPadden, Barbara Britt, and Midge Mramor. Suit Yourself, located in Painesville, OH, has been a member of ACDN since 2006.


Suit Yourself, Inc. has a strong working Board where each member of the Board chairs a committee.  We have no paid staff so the Board relies on its volunteers not only to help serve clients, but to assist with donation day, serve on committees, and assemble our care packages.  We ask our volunteers to share their special talents.  For example, we had a volunteer who loved to scrapbook.  She became our historian and documented the first several years of our organization in beautiful decorated scrapbooks. At one time, we had a volunteer who was our “shoe lady”—yes, she would polish all the shoes and keep them organized and presentable looking on the shelving unit.  Our success is driven by our volunteers. We focus on making sure they know they are appreciated. They have one-on-one contact with all Officers and Board members when they volunteer with Suit Yourself and their suggestions for change are incorporated in boutique operations and policy development.  For National Volunteer Appreciation month last April we gave volunteers tickets to our spring fundraiser at a recently restored Steele Mansion, a high-demand venue. To reduce expenses, this April's National Volunteer Appreciation event was held at a local hospital but we planned to give the institution a "tea room ambiance" by bringing in china, silver, and teacups. Each volunteer went home with the flower centerpieces.  Our Board and volunteers are so dedicated and passionate about the mission of Suit Yourself. We work together and as the saying goes, ‘many hands make for light work.’

 
Suit Yourself Board Members

Suit Yourself Board Members

 

ACDN: How has this work affected you?

Sharan: I have a greater appreciation for humanity being part of this organization. Grateful for the clients I serve who are sometimes at the lowest point of their lives yet so optimistic; and, thankful for our faithful donors and community who believe in our mission. I find helping others to be extremely gratifying. 

ACDN: What is the biggest challenge in your role and how are you overcoming this challenge?

Sharan: From a start-up organization to a 15-year history the challenges have changed. As a founding Board member I have served as the Treasurer, Vice President and President. The initial challenges were writing the by-laws, facilitating our first fundraiser (where we raised $300) and obtaining non-profit status. The struggle of finding a location conducive to our client’s needs in both Lake and Ashtabula counties, yet within our budget and maintaining a budget is a challenge.  Our first clothing drive was quite interesting and rather funny now looking back because we have come so far and it’s like a well-oiled machine.  However, to me, the biggest challenge that still remains is trying to assemble a Z-rack

ACDN: Tell us about your signature fundraising event.

Sharan: We hold one main signature event each year and several small events. Our signature event is a reverse raffle held in Ashtabula County. In addition to the raffle, side boards, bingo, and auction items there is dancing.  A successful reverse raffle enables us to have a balanced budget. 

ACDN: Share a client story.

Sharan: Serving clients is a privilege and rewarding experience. Each client story is unique. It’s an emotional job knowing where our clients are coming from; however, it’s very important to make sure the client feels comfortable and safe, as you don’t always know their story. I have been doing this for a long time so I consider myself a seasoned volunteer. One particular client that stands out is a lady who needed professional apparel for her job interview.  The suiting went very well and when she left I asked her if I could give her a hug for good luck. You see, that client told me she grew up in the fostering system as a child going from one placement to another it was not until she met her husband did anyone ever hug her or tell her they loved her.  

Another story that comes to mind is the client I served during the winter months in Northeast Ohio where we had frigid temperatures and snow covered the sidewalks. The client I was serving was referred to us from Forbes House (a domestic violence shelter). It was an emergency placement as she only had the clothes on her back. Suit Yourself provided the client with a professional outfit to wear the next day to court and several outfits for work, including a winter coat. This suiting was unique as the client brought along her two children where one child was carrying a blanket because it was so cold and windy outside as they walked there. The highlight of that suiting was giving her daughter a beautiful heart shaped necklace to surprise her mom with for Valentine’s Day. Of course, the little girl could not wait until then so her mom opened up the gift at our boutique. The look and expression on both faces was priceless and still brings tears to my eyes. For those that believe in the circle of life, Suit Yourself has served a client who was going through a rough patch in life and gave her the apparel she needed to land a job. Not only did she land a job, she now works for a referring agency of ours and refers clients to us. Every client story is unique and personal. To me, volunteering is more than just suiting the client. It’s letting them know we believe in them and support them on this new chapter of their life. 

ACDN: Being a member of ACDN enables our agency to…

Sharan: …keep abreast of the current trends and best practices of client services, serving women, marketing and fundraising.

If it were not for ACDN… 

Sharan:  ...Suit Yourself would not have a combined buying power that allows us to purchase items at a substantial lower cost and work with other agencies with our mission. 

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ACDN’s Interview Feature showcases ACDN Member leaders. This includes founders, executive directors, and program managers. The interviews offer a more in-depth perspective on the critical work our member agencies do throughout the year and demonstrates the impact on their community.