Preparing Women for a Brighter Future

For the past five years, Betty Fox has served as the executive director of Dress for Success Louisville. A veteran of nonprofit work, Fox was originally brought in to help run the store and lay the groundwork for stability in a time of crisis at the organization. Five years later, however, Fox is still at the helm and more committed than ever to the cause.

“I actually grew a passion for these women and their causes and decided to stay,” recalls Fox. “I just have a passion for helping people, and when you work in nonprofits, it’s all about helping people. My mom, she was always a giving person, was very philanthropic herself, and being around her gave me that same belief. A lot of people forget that Dress for Success is a global organization. We are in 140 cities and 19 countries right now.”

TVT_9172Since her time with the organization, Fox has worked steadfastly in bringing in a constant stream of new corporate clients who regularly donate clothes as well services for women from disadvantaged backgrounds. Often homeless and victims of domestic violence, Dress for Success helps prepare them for the workforce by providing professional clothing. A partnership with Visionworks has enabled Dress for Success to provide clients with glasses for interviews and employment while J. Michael’s Spa is more than happy to work in hair appointments for clients. But the challenges persist.

“We still need to deal with financial stability. We have a small staff of three people, and we need to grow that in the same way that we have grown other parts of Dress for Success,” explains Fox. “We serve around 2,000 clients a year now through our career programs.”

One thing that Fox wants to emphasize is Dress for Success’ need for more volunteers. While there is little doubt that suiting women is the public face of Dress for Success, that is only the tip of the iceberg. If you look below the surface, it becomes apparent how much more work is being done to prepare women as they re-enter the workforce.

“In terms of steady volunteers, we have around 60, but we need to double that because some of the women who come in, we take them through mock interviews. We need skilled individuals. We have our career lab – and some women have never used a computer. Some have never used a mouse. They don’t understand how to navigate the internet, so we need people who can come in and train women on the computer, others who can do mock interviews.”

Fox knows that in order for Dress for Success to keep thriving, it needs to develop and push these areas to continue making a real difference because, ultimately, that will lead to those same women returning, volunteering and helping to spread the message.

Fox recalls one particular client who turned up in a beautiful car seeking help. But after a divorce and falling on hard times, the client was actually sleeping in her car. It reaffirmed to Fox that it’s impossible to judge anyone on first appearance, and that once given help, the client will return to give back.

“That same lady now brings her friends to us, volunteers and tells the world about Dress for Success,” Fox says.

For Fox, though, her own personal challenge is finding enough time in the day to make her dreams for Dress for Success come true. With one daughter about to finish high school and another providing her with a granddaughter to spoil, Fox knows how hard it is to juggle those balls and create the same work-life balance that she preaches to her own clients.

Her days that begin in the office at 7 a.m. and finish at 10 p.m. are testaments to how hard she is willing to work for the organization and how she is always pushing it further. It’s the women that keep her coming back every day.

“Every woman who walks in through the door is different,” concludes Fox. “So what compels me to come in every single morning is the women and knowing what needs they have – whether it’s a suit she may need or something internal. Remember, our mission is to dress women from the inside out. So what does she need to be successful? And that’s what keeps me moving forward – because we have women from a variety of backgrounds.”

Photo by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune