A nonprofit has risen from the ashes, literally, after a fire destroyed its warehouse before a pandemic nearly ended their program. Throughout it all, Working Wardrobes has found a way to help people find jobs and dignity.
They help those who have made a choice to help themselves, teaching them to not only dress for success, but how to overcome personal obstacles.
Organizers of Working Wardrobes say in three decades they have found jobs, housing and dignity for more than 100,000 clients.
"The times when I was down and out in dark place, the phone rang out of blue and it was Working Wardrobes, and to me the follow up--that meant more than anything," Steven Gavin, a client, says.
Gavin lost his job a year ago, along with his home. Now, the army veteran hopes to rebound and find a job in construction.
Ten months ago, he thought it was all over. The entire program had gone up in flames, as a fire at the Irvine warehouse wiped out every piece of donated clothing, the offices and a job training center.
Twenty-four hours later, the nonprofit was rebuilding in a donated warehouse from Goodwill Industries. Within weeks, the operation would shut down again—as the pandemic forced staff to work from home.
Then in July, new offices in a new location with more donations from local corporations offered a rebirth.
In the midst of this phoenix-like comeback, organizers say they have actually been some positives because of the pandemic. Virtual job training means clients can log on from anywhere. The workshops used to average 10 people per session; now, there are up to 80.
"We have reached out to many, many more clients as result of that," Jerri Rosen, founder Working Wardrobes, says. "We are actually helping people from Alaska to Hawaii, Florida to New York. So, the numbers escalated greatly as a result of that."
Rosen says income dropped by over $2 million this year. Clients dropping by for wardrobes are also down, but she predicts there will be more people looking to start over.