Monday, February 1, 2010

Refresh Everything Contest

The Center for Accessible Living is in the running for a Pepsi Refresh Everything project and the public gets to decide who is funded (by voting). Please support us with a vote. This is to support our First Impression Men's Suit Program, which provides interview appropriate clothing for low income men to attain self-sufficiency. It's a valuable program that helps many men with a 2nd chance in life. One vote per email address. Voting ends 2/28!

The First Impression Men’s Suit program was started to collect and store free professional clothing for low income male job seekers in Louisville Metro area and surrounding counties that need interview attire. While Dress for Success of Louisville has been serving women in this capacity, there was no service or program meeting that unmet need for men, a major barrier to low to moderate income job seekers. Although the Center for Accessible Living is a disability service organization, individuals do not need to have a disability to receive a suit. The Center has recognized the overwhelming and previously unmet need for this program in the community. The typical individuals that benefit from the program, many of whom are veterans, ex-felons, or homeless, are all trying for a fresh start in life. With the power of a suit and the confidence it brings, these individuals are able to become more self sufficient.

The program has grown from a six (6) foot long self-service closet holding approximately fifty (50) suits to 256 feet of hanging space with well over a thousand suits, shirts, slacks and other professional clothing items. This program has innovated how men who cannot afford a suit get the clothing and confidence they need to gain and maintain employment, some for the first time ever.

Feedback from area service providers has shown that the suit closet has made a great impact and changed lives of the people who received suits and subsequently jobs. These individuals are able to constructively contribute to society through gainful employment, and many times have gained a second chance at a new beginning.

To date the program has grown exponentially, serving over 850 people since it began in 2005. The program has grown to a point where it is difficult to manage with current staff, none of whom are directly assigned to the suit closet, as there is currently no program income. The program relies heavily on in-kind staff involvement and a base of very dedicated volunteers. All of the clothing is collected as tax-deductible donations from the community, which relies heavily on word-of-mouth for those donations. While there is great support from the community donors, the suit program lacks many above and below average sizes and is sometimes unable to suit participants. Rarely are donations monetary in nature, which makes cleaning the clothes and basic supplies like hangers and shoe polish difficult to procure.

"Pepsi Refresh Everything" funding for this program would allow the Center to hire a staff to perform program outreach and resource development, which the Center is currently unable to do with existing staff. This individual would be able to spend time on necessary functions like developing corporate sponsors and corporate donors. The Center for Accessible Living does not have the resources to adequately pursue essential program partners such as Dry Cleaners, clothiers, shoe stores, cobblers and shoe repair and tailors who may have time or resources available to give to the program.

Thank you!

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