In 1990, Jerri Rosen and five friends gathered clothing and accessories to give to survivors of domestic violence at an event they called “Day of Self-Esteem.” Rosen and company weren’t prepared for the outpouring of appreciation and the degree to which their single act of kindness would affect the lives of both clients and volunteers. Seeing that there was a true need for professional clothing among women seeking employment, the group went on to serve 67 clients in that first year alone—and Working Wardrobes was born. Eventually, the organization widened its scope to include men and began offering job-placement services and career training programs.
Today, Working Wardrobes helps more than 5,000 clients enter the workforce each year. Men and women facing any sort of challenge—alcohol and substance abuse, homelessness, the transition from military to civilian life—can turn to the organization for help. At the 16,500-square-foot facility in Costa Mesa, they’ll find trained personal shoppers as well as regular career training workshops. The long list of awards the group has won includes the 1998 Bank of America Award for Vision in Philanthropy and the 2008 Making a Difference for Women Award from Soroptimist International of Huntington Beach.
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While statistics for teenagers aging out of foster care often look bleak—with many becoming pregnant, incarcerated, or homeless at a young age—Lisa Castetter believes it doesn’t have to be that way. That’s why she founded the Teen Leadership Foundation in 2008. By equipping youth with leadership and teamwork skills prior to their emancipation from foster care, the organization helps them enter adult life feeling empowered and backed by a support system.
Stable, adult mentors serve as positive role models, helping teens build confidence, trust, and self-esteem. Transitional-age foster youth work with their mentors and other community leaders during the foundation’s workshops, where they receive training in getting jobs, managing their money, enrolling in school, and developing other skills crucial to living independently. Additionally, the organization’s three-day leadership camps provide opportunities for foster youth to participate in fun, challenging activities with mentors and peers.
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Amanda fled an abusive relationship late one night. Carrying her 16-month-old daughter—still dressed in pajamas—she walked to a gas station to look for help. What she found was Human Options, where she received a safe place to sleep, nutritious food, and personal counseling. Human Options provided her with that help and, according to Amanda, its "incredible staff saved [her] life."
Last year alone, Human Options provided safe haven and counseling to more than 400 abused women and their children. Like Amanda, each person who comes to the shelter first calls the 24-hour hotline. When they arrive at the emergency shelter,
they receive their own room and nutritious meals. Families meet with a therapist, case manager, legal advocate, and child therapist twice a week, helping them gain emotional support and form a plan for when they leave the shelter. They also take part in a variety of classes led by certified personnel or outside professionals, including art therapy and budgeting. In addition to emergency services, Human Options provides a one-year transitional housing program to help survivors in their path to becoming self-sufficient.
In 1984, a group of Orange County community members founded Families Forward after realizing they shared the same vision. Their goal: to help support local families in financial crisis with housing, food assistance, and other services that could help them achieve and maintain self-sufficiency. Along with 28 transitional homes to help families dealing with the loss of their homes or eviction from their apartments, Families Forward runs a food pantry that supports more than 7,000 people each year, career workshops, counseling services, and seasonal programs for children. The transitional housing program has helped more than four out of five families served successfully transition from crisis to stability. Once a family's financial status and living situation stabilize, they can return to being independent, productive community residents, which helps kids from such households experience a safe, happy, and secure childhood—accomplishing Families Forward's number-one priority of protecting children.
Two survivors of domestic abuse founded Women Helping Women/Men2Work (WHW) in 1993 following their own experience rebuilding their professional wardrobes on tight incomes. Though they began collecting clothes in a trunk for women in shelters, the organization’s reach has grown rapidly. Since its inception, WHW has helped more than 30,000 men, women, and teenagers become economically self-sufficient through employment services. Staff members work with underserved individuals to help them develop their resumés, practice interviewing techniques, and search for job leads. They prepare participants for a work environment with professional attire and body-language training. Participants also can take part in workforce-development workshops, where they learn about networking, negotiations, and multimedia skills to help them become competitive in the job market.
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