SoJo Spotlight: Changing Lives, One Suit at a Time

SoJo Spotlights feature individuals, clubs, organizations, or events that embody the spirit of social justice.  This week, Guilford College student Emily Currie shares her story.  

Emily holds two outfits collected by PFHC. Photo credit: Daniel Nonte.

In 1989, I became homeless while living in Charlotte, North Carolina.  I lived in the Women’s Shelter there for about six months.  During my stay, a social worker and other staff members provided me with bus passes, resume-writing assistance, and a referral to a program that taught me computer skills.

Because of the resources provided to me, I was able to find a job and soon got my first apartment.  Those resources changed the path of my life.

I am so grateful for that experience and have never forgotten it.  I strongly believe that our purpose on Earth is to serve one another.  When kindness is given we have an obligation to pass it on.

Pearls & Heels for Careers is a non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to provide assistance to homeless and disadvantaged women in Greensboro who are seeking employment. Our mission is to assist homeless and disadvantaged women with job searches.  For many women, employment leads to self-sufficiency, empowerment, confidence, and often brings an end to their poverty.

As part of a class called Introduction to Civic Engagement, I volunteered with the Greensboro Urban Ministry’s Women’s Support Group and saw the need for homeless women to have interview-appropriate clothing to wear to job interviews.  Out of my past experience as a homeless woman and my own personal beliefs, PHFC was born.

PHFC provides clients with an interview-appropriate outfit, resume and cover letter writing assistance, interview skills, job search tips, hair styling, bus passes and hygiene items.  We also offer classes, seminars, and offer one-on-one meetings with clients. By providing clients with these resources, we arm them with the tools they need to effectively compete in today’s job market.

Due to the economic recession and growing homeless population in Greensboro, non-profits like PHFC are becoming increasingly necessary. Many other charitable organizations exist in Greensboro, but most of these organizations just focus on developing job skills.  PHFC addresses the missing piece of the puzzle: the need for an interview outfit.

We conducted a four-week pilot program at Pathways Center, where Vivian Lutian, assistant director of the Career Development Center and founder of the Women’s Resource Center, taught classes to residents. Clients were also taught how to dress for success.  Our first clients graduated our program on Aug. 31 and one client, Taneka Martin, got a job and began work on September 1st.

“This program has helped me to maintain focus and motivate(d) me to be more determined to (get a job),” said Martin, who wore the outfit she received from PHFC to her successful job interview last week.

You can donate a new or nearly new outfit, volunteer your time as a personal shopper, interview clients, do clerical work, or participate in our upcoming seminars and suit drives to become involved.  For more information, check out our website or contact me at curriee@guilford.edu.

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