Durham non-profit’s clothing sale helps unemployed women in job hunt

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Unemployment rates are lower in the Triangle than the state and national averages, but there are ongoing efforts to get it even lower.

Paul Grantham, chairman of the Durham Workforce Development Board, said the recently available numbers for the Bull City have an unemployment rate of 3.6 percent. He said North Carolina’s unemployment is 4.1 percent while the national average is 3.9 percent.

“We went as low as 2.8 percent in fall of 2018, but we’ve been hovering in that 3 percent range for most of this year,” Grantham said about Durham.

“The unemployment rate for lower income, people living below the poverty line, is much higher. We have significant work to do to improve those numbers.”

He said one program designed specifically to help people in that economic group is Dress for Success, a non-profit works with women to provide clothes, career counseling, and job hunting assistance to unemployed and underemployed women.

Dress for Success Triangle has a pop-up boutique this weekend at Durham’s Northgate Mall. The chapter’s Sales and Merchandising Manager, Denise Torain, said the two-day sale helps cover the costs of providing job-related services to lower-income women for free.

“Women have a real struggle finding equal pay and equal benefits. Our job is to help women find living wage employment, and to make that happen, our agency assists them by providing a beautiful resume, beautiful clothing, and the skills to present themselves well,” Torain said.

“We have a lot of wonderful partners in the area who are interested in employing our women. Several of our clients are working with companies like IQVIA, IBM, other great companies. We are just looking to help that woman find the right job for her,” she said.

“It might be that she wants a retail position but she wants a management position, so whatever that job is that that client is looking for that is her perfect job, our goal is to help her be ready to connect so she can find that job.”

The public sale at the mall’s former Hallmark store offers big bargains with many clothes 90 percent off retail. Prices start at $5, and many items are brand new with tags. Volunteers evaluated gently used clothing before putting it on racks for sale.

There was a private event Thursday for Dress for Success clients to pick out clothing for free.

“We have a lot of women that come in and they have the clothes on their back and that’s it, and so when we see them put that suit on, and their face brightens up, and they come back and they have a job, it’s just the most wonderful feeling,” volunteer Tina Higgins said.

“A lot of them do stay in touch because there’s a lot of programs we offer. They can come back and go through a professional women’s group, and that’s a program we have for women who have jobs, and just want to keep bettering themselves. It goes beyond clothing.”

Higgins said the proceeds from a single pop-up sale can pay the rent for one of the Dress for Success Triangle facilities. There are locations in Durham and Raleigh, and there will be a Summer Boutique Sale in Raleigh on June 21 and 22.

The Saturday sale at Northgate Mall is from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Customers can shop early at 9 a.m. if they make a $20 donation.

“You can find a summer outfit for $10, so you can’t beat it. The clothing, we only put out the best of what we get,” Higgins said.

For more information, visit the Dress for Success Triangle website.

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