Dress for Success DC - Great Gala, Great Nonprofit

Let's step outside the healthcare industry this weekend. Before the holiday rush begins, it's a good refresher to focus on things we value outside the world of work (like watching cheesy movies with the husband and Claussen dill pickles).

Also things like volunteering.

For Gen-X and Yers itching to expand their range of experiences, seeking fulfillment in work done outside the 9-5 often comes in the form of volunteerism.

As a Director for The Hanover Research Council, I realized pretty quickly I'd need to devote some of the social capital and knowledge I was gaining back to organizations who could benefit from my time and energy.

What a classic, idiotic, self-centric view.

It's a good thing I got involved with Dress for Success early enough to keep this "me" based view from veering toward pomposity (for the most part).

My time with the Dress for Success Washington DC affiliate, led by amazing Executive Director Jen McNulty, has helped me refocus from serving self to serving others - with DFS, its serving women who need a helping hand.

As Dress for Success Worldwide Board Chair Rosalyn Taylor O'Neale said at Thursday night's 5th Anniversary Celebration, the women who come through the doors (over 3,000 in five years at DFS DC) do the hard work.

All they're looking for is someone to do the easy stuff - support them as they decide to turn their lives around.

When women arrive at Dress for Success Washington DC, they're greeted by a volunteer who becomes their personal shopper, mentor, and job coach. The volunteer assists our client with work-ready outfits that build confidence, prepping them for the interview process.

At the Career Corner, volunteers teach computer/internet skills, (and often Jen herself - who serves as a down-to-earth model of supportive coaching) help the ladies with resumes, searching job postings, and practicing interviewing so they can wrap up that offer up with a bow and tie the job up tight.

Support continues after clients have secured a job - the DFS Professional Womens Group (PWG) members visit museums, attend workshops on developing professional skills, and help other DFS clients.

After directing guests at the event, which ran like clockwork thanks to the team of gurus from The Webster Group, volunteers got a seat at the table to enjoy the program.

At dinner, I sat with other volunteers - we were as diverse and celebratory a group as I've ever had the privilege to be a part.

The event was held at the Hotel Monaco, a Kimpton Boutique property, where you can get a companion goldfish delivered to your room for the duration of your stay.

For those of you interested in such things, Kimpton properties always showcase a great sense of style and nontraditional hotel design. Steps from the Verizon Center in downtown DC, Hotel Monaco is no exception.

Kimpton properties worldwide act as charity partners for Dress for Success branches, donating space for fantastic events.

Kimpton Hotels COO Niki Leondakis received an award - and her story about feeling intimidated meeting DFS Worldwide CEO Joi Gordon ("what do I wear to the meeting?") was just one example of the amazing connections made by women involved with Dress for Success.

When at your table you've got a newly-posted advisor in the University of Maryland system with a Master's in Counseling, a retired federal HR pro who has suited women at least once a week for several years and who edits the newsletter, 2 interns who are doing amazing work at DFS, the son of a DFS client who's an/actor, magician and unique personality (and I guarantee we'll see on Broadway or TV someday), a DFS staffer who is the godmother of another DFS employee and former client, and several other amazing volunteers, you're bound to have some of the most interesting conversations of your life.

What is it that pulled us all in at DFS and keeps us coming back for more?

Two things: The women we serve and Jen McNulty, who devotes as much time to mentoring volunteers as she does to coaching clients.

The women we serve. Amazing women with stories that deserve to be told, who are devoted to working in ways that make living better for their families.

Get involved with your local Dress for Success.

Give of your time, give of your money, but most importantly, give of yourself.

Women who walk through the doors leave with so much more than a suit. In wrapping them in the support they need to succeed, we weave a stronger fabric for the global community of women.

PS -the food was awesome!

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