A NOTE FROM OUR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
I am very excited to see what 2017 has in store for Bottomless Closet. As you probably already know, 2016 was our best year yet, during which we experienced a 15% increase in client interactions! This year, I am hoping we can make history again — something we would never be able to do without our dedicated staff, board, volunteers, supporters, corporate partners and our strong network of referral partners.
We just celebrated our 18th birthday last month, and it was amazing to look back at how far the organization has come. And yet, as Bottomless Closet continues to flourish, our core mission and the kind of one-on-one support we provide to our clients remains the same. It’s a testament to the dedicated people who come here each day, providing attention and compassion to women who need it the most.
As we look forward to spring, the warmer weather and of course spring cleaning, I am hoping Bottomless Closet will be the first choice for anyone looking to clean out their closets and give back at the same time. We also have some great events coming up in March that we hope you’ll join us for, and of course our Annual Spring Luncheon is right around the corner in May. Visit our website at bottomlessclosetnyc.org for details on honorees, speakers and how to purchase tickets.
Thank you for all that you do to make a difference in the lives of the women that we serve!
CELEBRATING OUR CLIENTS
In a special graduation ceremony in early December, certificates of achievement were presented to 13 clients for completing the workshops offered by Bottomless Closet (eight clients completed the Professional Development Series, while five completed the Financial Management Series). The event was generously hosted by the InterContinental New York Barclay Hotel in Midtown and was well attended by both current and former clients, as well as volunteers and staff who cheered on our graduates.
This is a great achievement that sometimes takes years to accomplish. Clients who succeed in attaining this milestone sometimes do so while attending school, working or caring for their children full-time.
Also honored were two clients who have used the lessons learned in the workshop series and applied them to their lives. The Financial Independence Award was presented to Jo-Ann for paying off her debt using the lessons learned in the Financial Management Series.
Elisa, pictured below, was presented with the Moving Up Award for having achieved great success in her professional career.
A MODEL EMPLOYEE
Elisa has been a Bottomless Closet client since 2013 and participated in the Job Club. She completed both the Professional Development and Financial Management Series.
In 2015, Elisa started working at Lincoln Medical Center as Director of the Grants Department, where she manages 15 government service grants totaling $5.4 million. In the summer of 2016, Elisa’s supervisor asked her to update and modify the department’s existing Policy and Procedures manual. At the Accreditation Regulatory Compliance Committee meeting attended by senior and executive officers of the hospital, Elisa’s manual was the only report accepted by the committee.
“The report was put on the screen for everyone to see and the attendees were asked to use it as a model for the entire hospital,” recalls Elisa. “I was shocked and flattered to receive congratulatory phone calls and the acknowledgment of the CEO and my supervisor.” Elisa’s achievement is a testament to her hard work since arriving at Bottomless Closet.
NEW PARTNERSHIPS & SUPPORT
Thank you to all of the companies and organizations that continue to support our work with financial or in-kind gifts, and welcome to those new partners who have connected with us in the past few months!
Here are just a few recent examples: U.S. Bank donated $9,000; Corcoran Cares gave $7,500; Wells Fargo’s ‘Community Connections’ program donated $5,000; Société Générale contributed $5,000; American Express gave $2,500; and Barneys New York Downtown gave $1,500.
Additionally, many companies held donation drives for us, including: Barneys New York Downtown (the entire month of January); U.S. Bank (held a coat drive after seeing Bottomless Closet on PIX 11 News); J. Jill (held an in-store clothing drive); and Morgan Stanley (several office locations throughout the tri-state area held drives).
Generous in-kind donations included: necklaces from PONO, makeup from e.l.f. Cosmetics, and pantyhose from Hanes Hosiery.
NEW STAFF SPOTLIGHT
During the month of January, Bottomless Closet welcomed two new full-time staff members.
Alison Zaccone joined as Communications Director and will lead all of the organization’s traditional and social media outreach strategies. Alison is a seasoned Public Relations and Communications Professional with more than 12 years of experience in the field. Before joining Bottomless Closet, Alison spent nearly 10 years at the ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) where she handled public relations and media outreach for many of the ASPCA’s national programs as Director of Media & Communications. Alison also authors the bargain shopping and fashion blog NYC Recessionista in her spare time.
Carol Costello, our new Volunteer Manager, will oversee the organization’s robust volunteer program, including recruitment, training, and retention. Drawn to Bottomless Closet by our mission of empowering women, Carol brings over 15 years of experience in volunteer management to her position. She was the Volunteer Director for 11 years at CASA* for Children of Essex County NJ (*Court Appointed Special Advocates), and prior to that, managed a volunteer based writing program in her public school district. Carol has volunteered for a number of organizations over the years and currently volunteers as a cook for a soup kitchen in her community.
We are excited to have both Alison and Carol on board as Bottomless Closet continues to grow!
ANNUAL SPRING LUNCHEON TICKETS NOW ON SALE!
Wednesday, May 17, 2017 • Cipriani • for more information click here
Sometimes things just come full circle. Alisha S., a Bottomless Closet alumni, just celebrated her one-year anniversary as a residential aide caseworker at a leading NYC non-profit agency and the largest provider of shelter for homeless families in the City. Alisha is now providing the same kind of TLC she received at Bottomless Closet, helping homeless women and their children get a roof over their heads.
Alisha, who first visited Bottomless Closet when she needed new work clothes – “I had significant weight loss and needed new clothes to wear,” she recalls – and help with resume prep for an interview with the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. Through that interview, Alisha was referred to a networking event and from that chance invitation, she made a valuable connection that led to a job.
Before she landed her current job, the positions she interviewed for were not in areas she was personally interested in, like retail or childcare. “I finally settled into a position where I could utilize my associated degree in HR and it feels secure and stable with benefits,” said Alisha.
In her new position, Alisha is part of a team that helps close to 12,000 homeless women and their children each year. “I have referred other women [to Bottomless Closet] and the workshops (resume writing, owning my store, job development, development comfort and confidence) were all very helpful services,” she said.
“Women come to Bottomless Closet with their head hanging down and leave proud, confident and determined to look great,” continued Alisha. “It is a very clean and professional environment where volunteers take you where you need to be.”
Alisha is now looking forward to completing her college degree. “I have so much more confidence in myself and not afraid anymore to take on challenges and seek advancement opportunities as a caseworker.”
You too can help more women reach higher so that they get hired.
JoAnn M. still vividly remembers the very first suit she received from Bottomless Closet back in 2010. “It was lavender. At that point, my feet were dirty in this beautiful new suit,” she recalls. JoAnn feels that being referred to Bottomless Closet was the only good thing about going to the public welfare office back then.
After getting a few different jobs over the years that followed – and even being laid off and out of work for 18 months – JoAnn decided to return to school and at 50 years old, she got her GED and graduated with her granddaughter. “My daughter was so proud,” JoAnn remembers.
A few years ago, JoAnn began working as a Licensed Security Guard, quickly getting to know everyone who worked and lived in the building. “My first year, I earned $10 an hour and eventually received a $5 pay increase. Today after a meeting with an executive at the company, I am making $20 hourly and am working as a care coordinator/outreach specialist in the same building. I LOVE IT!!! I started from the bottom up.”
JoAnn has really enjoyed participating in different events and experiences with Bottomless Closet, including fashion events with brands like Macy’s and JCPenney. “I love Bottomless Closet. They treat us like we are high class and it made me feel very important, like I could succeed. When nobody was there for me, Bottomless Closet was there for me and I was treated with love and respect.”
At 54 years old, JoAnn is now going to college and studying Human Services. “I now have my own apartment, my bills are paid thanks to the financial management classes that helped me with some of my debt,” said JoAnn. JoAnn paid off her last credit card in October.
JoAnn says that after her experience, she would recommend Bottomless Closet to anyone. “I would tell them that whatever you receive from Bottomless Closet (advice, education, support) – use it and share it!”
JoAnn was named the 2016 Financial Independence Award recipient at the Graduation and 2016 Year End Celebration for her achievements in decreasing her debt and increasing her FICO Score.
You too can help more women to become financially independent. $100 ensures that a woman has a Credit Score Consult and can begin her journey to self-sufficiency.
At the age of 30, Sue L. found herself an unemployed single mother of two. After a year of unemployment, she was forced to apply for public assistance. This was not the life she had envisioned for herself, and it was overwhelming.
“My lowest moment was not being able to pay my rent after I had lost my job and had to live in a shelter with my children. I had nothing. I remember my kids did not go to school for an entire week because I had no money to take them to school. That was one of my darkest times.”
When Sue was referred to Bottomless Closet, she did not even have appropriate interview clothing. She also lacked self-confidence. Just asking for help was challenging.
“Do you know what it means to have a woman you don’t know see you basically on the floor and say, ‘I know what you’re going through. You just have to get up and keep going?’ When you spend so long out of work and you’re not used to relying on other people’s help, you get down—self-pity kicks in and then depression—I was not used to people helping me.”
Thanks to supporters like you, Sue’s outlook changed dramatically. She went through our one-on-one interview coaching process, had her resume reviewed and edited, and received career-appropriate clothing for a job interview. She participated in a mock-interview workshop and used the computers at Bottomless Closet to apply for jobs, including a part-time Virgin America Guest Services Agent position. Sue succeeded in getting that part-time job, six months later was promoted to full-time agent, and two years later, is now the Guest Service Lead—second only to the supervisor!
“Once I joined the program at Bottomless Closet, I started thinking about my future and what steps I wanted to take to get there. They give you the tools you need to succeed…I owe you guys more than you know.”
Sue credits Bottomless Closet with her success. That credit extends to you, our generous volunteers and supporters, who recognize that helping women connect to work and build self-sufficient lives is vitally important.
We hope that you will continue your support for Bottomless Closet this year by making a generous year-end gift.
Thanks to the warm welcome that I received earlier this year, after six months at Bottomless Closet, I already feel passionately connected to not only the mission, but all of the individuals involved with the organization — from the terrific staff, to the committed supporters and donors, to the dedicated volunteers and the inspiring clients. I’ve seen how hard everyone works to achieve positive outcomes.
The special people attached to our organization are what makes it so unique. As you will read, it’s been a busy few months of getting to know the organization and the important folks who make it shine. I have realigned our staffing to prioritize volunteers as an invaluable core component of our programs.
Another focus has been to renew long standing relationships and to raise awareness of our good work through several new corporate partnerships. In this issue, we highlight just a few of those new partnerships that are bringing added benefits to Bottomless Closet. iPass is giving our clients Wi-Fi service to assist them with their job searches. Amalgamated Bank is helping our clients create foundations for their own financial freedom. Lyft is offering a way for both you and the organization to benefit from the rides that you take with them. There is something everyone can do to keep Bottomless Closet growing.
Finally, I hope you will be inspired after learning how the sons of Lillian Vernon decided to honor her memory after being introduced to Bottomless Closet and reading about a client who benefited from their generosity.
I hope you will do your part to help us get on the radars of more influencers by sharing this newsletter with a friend or colleague. The more people who know about the work we do, the more opportunities we can create for women in need in New York City. I hope you enjoy the latest newsletter. Your feedback is always appreciated.
AN INSPIRING LEGACY
In 1951 at the age of 24, Lillian Vernon started a company out of her Mount Vernon, NY apartment. Initially selling personalized purses and belts, the brand grew to include a catalog that featured over 120 pages of gifts and accessories. From there, the Lillian Vernon brand was born. The catalog, which you may be familiar with, became a quintessential part of the American woman’s shopping experience. In 1987, the Lillian Vernon Corporation became the first company founded by a woman to be publicly traded on the American Stock Market.
After Lillian’s death, her children David and Fred Hochberg wanted to ensure that their mother’s legacy was one that continued to give women joy and a sense of empowerment. Inspired after hearing some of our clients’ stories at our annual luncheon, they decided to donate her wardrobe to Bottomless Closet. What better way is there to honor her memory than to donate the late icon’s clothing to an organization that is committed to empowering women on their journeys to success?
We have begun distributing the generous donation to clients going on job interviews and starting work! Bottomless Closet is honored to be the recipient of such a wonderful donation.
A CLIENT’S PERSPECTIVE
It is serendipitous that Jo-Ann, pictured here and above, was one of the first clients to receive a Lillian Vernon suit, as she personifies Ms. Vernon‘s spirit of empowerment and perseverance.
Jo-Ann first came to Bottomless Closet in 2008 after being laid off for 18 months. She got a job soon after her appointment and in the eight years she has been employed, she has been promoted four times! She says that Bottomless Closet treated her like she was “high class” and made her feel important, showing her that she could succeed. Since her initial visit to Bottomless Closet, Jo-Ann took part in our Financial Management series and now owns her own home and all of her bills are paid.
Jo-Ann is a resilient woman who at the age of 50 got her GED and four years later graduated college along with her granddaughter. She says “the only good thing about me going on public assistance was finding Bottomless Closet.”
CORPORATE SPOTLIGHT: BANKING RESOURCES THROUGH AMALGAMATED BANK
Funded by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America in 1923, Amalgamated Bank was New York City’s first labor bank. Today, the bank has 14 NYC branches, a third of them in NYC’s Banking Development Districts (underserved areas with a need for banking services). Amalgamated Bank is attempting to broaden New Yorkers’ access to banking and wants to reach the un- and under-banked. As part of our new relationship with Amalgamated, all Bottomless Closet clients will be able to receive free checking accounts. Plus, they will have access to account representatives that will help guide them through the banking system.
This summer, the volunteer department was absorbed into the program department headed by our Program Director, Patrycja Warda. Our former Office Coordinator, Valentine Louis, was named Volunteer Coordinator in July and is now working to ensure that all of our dedicated volunteers are scheduled appropriately.
Access to information and services on the internet can be critical for our clients’ job searches. iPass is offering our clients 90 days of free, unlimited Wi-Fi access until June of 2017. iPass is the world’s largest Wi-Fi network, offering simple, secure Wi-Fi access on any device.