Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel Collects for 'Dress for Success'
Bi-annual drop-off dates yield work wear for women in need.
"We take anything a woman needs to put herself together, to present well for a job interview," says Susan Siegeltuch Witkin, volunteer coordinator of bi-annual Dress for Success collections that take place at Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel in South Orange. The most recent collection day was Feb. 21, when winter and spring clothing was donated by members of the congregation and community.
The temple has been hosting a collection day for several years, and Witkin has been the organizer for about five of those years. The project began when Rabbi Ellie Miller connected with Dress for Success. Begun in New York City in 1977, and with a local outlet in Madison, the organization "promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life."
Witkin became involved and then wound up as coordinator of the event because she was "so impressed" with the mission of Dress for Success. "It's so well run, so well conceived," she explains, "that I was happy to help out. Not only do they help women look as they should for the interview, but they help prep them." She's especially impressed with the self esteem building that is part of the program. She likens dressing for an interview to choosing new clothes for the first day of school. "We do that for our kids, to start the year on the right foot. This is the same."
The donation days are on the calendar for many donors, who schedule spring and fall closet purges around the dates. After years of experience, Witkin runs the donation day "like clockwork." Donors arrive at the temple, and unload clean clothes on hangers. The clothes are hung in the coat room of the newly-renovated lobby and separated by style and season.
"These are our pant suits and skirt suits," explains Witkin. "Then over here we have dresses." She models the setup on what's done at Dress for Success headquarters, the final destination of the clothing. While many donors bring their garments into the building and mingle, Witkin can also handle "drop and go" donations, where drivers pull up to the door, open the car's trunk, unload and go.
Indeed, Sunday found the coat room "brimming," as Witkin said, with accessories and garments of all types, from dressy suits to casual Friday khakis.
All the clothing is then taken to Madison. Volunteers caravan in several cars, all loaded with women's work attire.
Witkin's days are full, but she makes time for Dress for Success. Why? The answer is simple. As she explains, "I find it quite moving to help women in this way."