Lifestyle

YWCA's Working Wardrobe program provides hope, help

In the Working Wardrobe room at Redmond
In the Working Wardrobe room at Redmond's YWCA Family Village, volunteer/community resources coordinator Brenda McCallon (left) and Cheri Kilty, regional YWCA director for East King County, assist women, as well as men, who need clothes, shoes and accessories for jobs and job interviews. Many of the clients are starting new lives after being displaced by domestic violence, job loss or other challenging circumstances.
— image credit: Mary Stevens Decker, Redmond Reporter

In the heart of downtown Redmond, an unassuming building on a quiet, tree-lined street is a safe haven of hope and help for women, children and families who've been displaced from their homes by financial hardship or domestic violence.

The YWCA Family Village, 16601 NE 80th St., provides transitional housing, child care, career coaching and work-appropriate clothing, so that clients can focus on becoming self-sufficient.

Clients are referred by Eastside human services agencies such as Hopelink or Eastside Domestic Violence Program.

"After their needs are determined, they get an 18-month stay. We can help with child care and placement in local schools, we help to assess their employment skills and help them through the Working Wardrobe program," said Cheri Kilty, regional YWCA director for East King County.

The YWCA Family Village in Redmond is the only location that serves men as well as women with Working Wardrobe needs. In the current economy, many male clients are unemployed and homeless for the first time.

Brenda McCallon, volunteer and community resources coordinator for YWCA of East King County, oversees the Working Wardrobe program here in Redmond.

"Working Wardrobe used to have limited drop-off hours. Now it's 9 to 5, Monday through Fridays, except for holidays. People can drop stuff off in the lobby," said McCallon.

"We work with over 30 non-profits to get referrals on a voucher system. Clients can get up to 10 complete outfits for work or job interviews," McCallon noted. "We now have free shoes, scarves and accessories, too. We also take donations of household goods and are in need of clean shopping bags from stores like Macy's and Chico's, so people don't have to carry the clothes home in a grocery bag."

Working Wardrobe at the YWCA also accepts donations of new, unopened cosmetics or travel-sized shampoo, conditioner and hand lotion. Little things can do a lot to improve a client's morale.

The YWCA can also make good use of gently used cocktail dresses or bridal fashions. These can be sold to generate funds for YWCA programs.

"We get some beautiful things — people clean out their closets and are very generous," said McCallon.

She added that men's wardrobe items, only at the YWCA in Redmond, are in as much or greater demand than women's.

"Men don't clean their closets often. They like to hang onto things. But when their wives find men's clothes to donate, now they'll know where to bring them," McCallon remarked, smiling.

In addition to the Family Village in Redmond, the YWCA operates a drop-in day center, Angeline's Eastside Women's Center at the Bellevue First Congregational Church, at the corners of Northeast 8th Street and 108th Avenue Northeast.

At Angeline's, free services, for single, very low-income and homeless women include daily hot meals and snacks, showers, restrooms and laundry facilities, phone, computer and Internet access and employment assistance.

Another YWCA Family Village is opening in Issaquah, slated for completion in August 2011.

The YWCA's mission is to "advance the quality of life for women of all ages, races and faiths, and their families."

For more information about the Working Wardrobe program at the YWCA Family Village in Redmond, contact Brenda McCallon at mccallon@ywcaworks.org or (425) 556-1354.

For general information about the YWCA of Seattle, King and Snohomish Counties, visit www.ywcaworks.org.

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