Hank Potter, an administrative assistant at Hopkins Information Technology Services, says that because her two daughters wear roughly the same size clothing as she does, she has never been one to give away items in her wardrobe. Not surprisingly, her closet, over time, reached maximum capacity.
Then two years ago Potter learned of a clothing drive for business-type clothes, which is coordinated at the university by the Office of Faculty, Staff and Retiree Programs. The suits, dresses, shoes and other items collected go to the YWCA of the Greater Baltimore Area and are intended for unemployed women in search of a job. Many of these women have difficulty affording the types of clothes they will need to wear either to an interview or every day in a business setting.
"They frequently will put off an interview because they don't have the proper clothing," says Esther Weisman, director of the Employment Training Center at the YWCA of the Greater Baltimore Area. Being without the proper attire can be a significant barrier to finding a job with opportunity, Weisman says.
The Employment Training Center program, which has operated for 22 years and has offices in Glen Burnie and Baltimore, prepares people for employment predominantly in clerical fields with a focus on computer training.
Besides teaching basic job skills, the program places an emphasis on building self-esteem. Many of the women are onetime workers who have been laid off, Weisman says, and have lost some level of confidence in themselves, a confidence, Weisman adds, that begins to return once these women put on a business suit.
"I have seen remarkable transformations," Weisman says. "They look different and they carry themselves differently. It complements their newfound skills. It really does build their confidence. It's a big, big thing."
The YWCA of the Greater Baltimore Area is one of several United Way-affiliated agencies involved in efforts that help people transition from welfare to work, increase job readiness and provide on-the-job mentoring, skill building and placement.
The 1999 United Way of Central Maryland Campaign will help the thousands of people assisted each year by these agencies by earmarking 11 percent of the dollars raised to the initiatives that support Building the Workforce, a portion of its campaign. In addition to the YWCA's Employment Training Center, the monies raised benefit other job training-oriented agencies in the greater Baltimore area such as Baltimore Reads, which provides job readiness training for adults and reading programs for at-risk children, and the Developmental Services Group, a rehabilitation program that provides community-based vocational services.
Hank Potter says that donating clothes is, for her, the perfect way both to purge her closet and to help people in need.
"[The clothes] would just have sat there and gathered dust," Potter says. "I felt this was one way of doing my part."
Through contact with other people at the university, Potter says she learned that many people were in the same boat she was in, so she now coordinates one of three business clothes collection sites at the Homewood campus.
Every few months Potter has Hopkins employees bring to her office their bags of clothes, which are brought to the YWCA by Eden Blum, human resources program coordinator at the Office of Faculty, Staff and Retiree Programs. A normal pickup practically fills the car to the windows, Potter says, and it makes her feel good "just knowing that these clothes are going to be used by people who really need them."
Joy Mays, an administrative assistant in the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the School of Public Health, coordinates one of the business clothing collection sites at the East Baltimore campus. Mays says she is regularly both surprised and delighted by the quality of the clothes that people are willing to donate.
"They are very nice and stylish," Mays says. "There certainly is a sense of satisfaction that something we no longer can wear, perhaps because we have grown out of it, can help someone else find a job."
Anyone who would like to either donate clothing or start a collection site can contact the Office of Faculty, Staff and Retiree Programs at 410- 516-6060.
CAMPAIGN UPDATE: Our United Way campaign has raised $1,027,416--61 percent of the combined goal of $1,684,000 for all Johns Hopkins entities. Congratulations to the schools of Medicine and Professional Studies in Business and Education for reaching more than 65 percent of their goals in the first two weeks of the campaign.