Piece of mind: Clothing that will help close the deal

Word of an intriguing charitable effort crossed my desk recently, a business-clothing drive for job seekers who do not have the money to pull together an outfit appropriate for a first interview.

I learned about the drive from Camille Tucker, director of communications for La Cañada Presbyterian Church, where the drive, called “Suit Yourself,” will be held on Sunday, from noon to 3 p.m.

Now is the time to give up that tailored suit sitting unworn at the back of your closet. There is someone out there who will gratefully accept it and may well become employed simply because you have the faith that this article of clothing will get into the right hands.

Perhaps you remember the first time you saw that suit and knew you had to own it. Do you remember how it felt when you put it on, studied yourself in the mirror and realized your new look would make a good impression in a business meeting? Do you remember heading for an important meeting in that new suit and saying to your spouse, “Wish me luck?”

There is a man or woman who needs to have that same realization, that same wish, that mantle of dignity that comes with knowing you look your best. And you can help by dropping off a suit, or separates suitable for the office place, during Sunday’s drive.

Digging a little, I learned the idea for the collection sprang from a conversation Tucker had with church member Cathy Taylor, who is a career counselor and headhunter.

“We were talking about the employment situation and people who have finished job training but don’t have clothes [appropriate] for interviews,” Tucker recalled.

Tucker and Taylor agreed that a business clothing drive would be helpful but didn’t know what agency would make the best partner. That’s when they engaged church member Kathy Hernandez in the conversation. As it turns out, Hernandez’ sister Ann Gusiff in 1995 founded a nonprofit organization, Clothes the Deal, that distributes articles of clothing to job seekers who are in need.

According to Clothes the Deal’s website (clothesthedeal.org) Gusiff wrote the business plan as part of her graduate work at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. The organization’s mission statement is, “To assist low-income men, women and at-risk youth, empowering them to gain and sustain employment and achieve economic self-sufficiency through employment success.”

Gusiff retired from Clothes the Deal in 2000, but it’s still going strong, partnering with dozens of other agencies that serve people in need. I spoke on the phone to Ben Day at the organization’s Downey headquarters. He explained that there are 11 drop-off donation sites in Los Angeles County and that about 65 clothing drives are held each year.

“We feel it’s important that all of our clients make a good first impression,” Day said. He explained that those who walk in the door at Clothes the Deal outlets are intelligent, willing to work and are prepared with necessary job skills, but just don’t have the necessary attire.

“We treat them just like clients in any retail store,” Day said, but the complete outfit they exit the store with costs them nothing more than the time it took to stop by and consult with Clothes the Deal workers.

It will cost La Cañadans nothing but the minutes it might take to dig into their closets between now and Sunday and drop off suitable business attire at the church, which is located at 626 Foothill Blvd.

As word has spread through the church’s campus about the drive, some clothes have already been collected, Tucker said. But Sunday’s event will be a relaxed and fun festival of sorts. Drop by, donate clothing and enjoy the giveaways Tucker has organized.

“I hope we’ll get about 200 people to come,” Tucker said. “If we get more, it will be great.”

When it’s all said and done, Taylor said her goal is that the church be able to give 500 business outfits to Clothes the Deal.

“Wish us luck,” she said.

CAROL CORMACI is managing editor of the Valley Sun. She can be reached via email at ccormaci@valleysun.net or carol.cormaci@latimes.com

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