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Nonprofit Suited to Succeed helps women get jobs, needs sponsors to stay afloat

Posted at 9:03 AM, Apr 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-13 08:10:16-04

When you're a woman alone, supporting a kid, homeless, or recovering from addiction, getting a job means everything. It gives her options and a path to a better life. Non Profit Suited to Succeed needs the community's help to stay open.

Suited is celebrating 20 years in Baltimore and in that time gave work attire to more than 12,000 women and continue to help more women say, "I did it, I got the job!" 

"She gets three visits with one referral, giving her a total of anywhere from 9 to 12 outfits," Joy Sheppard, Manager at Suited, said the ladies can mix and match their small wardrobe to feel comfortable in their new job.

Women are referred from several organizations including the Marian House and The Mayor's Office of Employment.

Sheppard found out about Suited as a client.

"I've come a long ways from where I've been," she paused taking a breath, "and it's primarily because of Suited," Sheppard was introduced to drugs by a close friend at 26-years-old.

"And then things fell apart, and I couldn't pull it back together and so it was a downward spiral, um a huge heartbreak in my life," Sheppard stopped, shook her head to push away the painful memory.

"It took a lot of people in different giving, benevolent organizations to help me get to where I am today," Sheppard said she went to the Marian House where they referred her to Suited.

"Years ago when I came through those doors, wanting to get employment to rebuild my life, addiction is a very hard thing to go through and you're not always ready. But this organization embraced me. They were very polite and kind to me," Sheppard said most importantly, they believed in her.

She came on as a clothing counselor, helping women in need pick out clothes that make them look their best for the workplace.

"Your attitude, when you walk into an interview, because of the clothes you're wearing, can get you that job. That firm handshake, beautiful smile, great attire, the job is yours," Sheppard said smiling.

She found her passion 15 years ago when she started, and never left. She was promoted to manager and sees herself helping more women as they come through her door.

"It's like seeing myself at a younger age," Sheppard said. Now she's facing another challenge.

The organization is struggling to keep the doors open, with such high demand, they moved to the heart of Downtown Baltimore, the Second Floor of 19 East Fayette Street. This means higher rent and electricity bills.

"At our old boutique where people actually shopped, they were like falling all over each other. They're on their lunch hour basically and waiting to get in a dressing room. They just didn't have that kind of time," Board Member Evelyn Gaines said.

The non profit receives donated clothing from corporate sponsors who host clothing drives, and get 75% of their income by selling the upscale clothing at $5-$10. Shoppers at the boutique are called "suited angels" because they fund the organization.

Any clothes that can't be sold at the boutique go to other charities, like House of Ruth or the Salvation Army.

Suited hosts an annual Suit A Palooza fundraising event, but this Spring they're working to get community partners onboard to raise $88,668 to operate this year.

Sheppard said she hopes people have the heart to help this business continue bettering women's lives, so they can overcome hardship the way she has and have a bright future.