Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Nonprofit aims to reach more women looking for jobs or advancement

by SUZANNE EVANS suzanne.evans@gazette.com - Published: July 5, 2013

A nonprofit known for providing makeovers for low-income women hoping to land a job or find a better one is getting its own makeover under the leadership of new executive director Melissa Marts.

Marts wants to expand the reach of the Women's Resource Agency by offering a more regular schedule of events for women who are looking for help breaking into the work force or trying to climb the ladder of success. The organization has held events and seminars before, but they were done sporadically, Marts said.

A more regular schedule of workshops could help pull in more women from all economic levels and increase attendance at the agency's ongoing programs that provide clients with information, tools, and clothing to help them find new or better jobs, Marts said.

"We want to have a variety of different opportunities for women of all walks to come in," Marts said.

According to the agency's website, most clients are low-income, single, separated or divorced, and want a job that can provide a living wage. About 95 percent of the women who go through the agency earn less than $25,000 per year, and 73 percent are single mothers.

So it helps that WRA programs are free, including a four-part series of workshops that kicks off next week.

"Everything is free, done through our fundraising efforts," said Marts. "There's never a fee for anything at all."

The regular WRA programs help women improve their interview and computer skills, build resumes and dress for the workplace.

Its "career readiness boot camp" provides one avenue into the workforce.

"We actually spend time talking with them about what their skills are, what kinds of work experience they've had in the past," Marts said.

Once women have figured out what to put on their resume, the WRA helps to put it on paper.

Eight of 10 women that go through the agency have jobs within 30 days, said Marts.

"That's a huge step in the right direction, from an economic perspective, from a psychological perspective, from a social-emotional perspective - all those things. Everyone benefits from that," she said.

The agency may be best known for its clothing program, Suit Up for Success, which provides outfits for interviews and jobs. It used to be tied into Dress for Success, the New York-based, international, non-profit that provides professional attire to disadvantaged women, among other services.

But Marts said the two organizations parted ways because the WRA wanted to start social enterprises - essentially businesses or operations that use a business model to achieve a social good - and Dress for Success would not allow the agency to do it. The social enterprises include lessons in selling items on eBay and regular boutique sales in the store.

The agency also offers a program for teens through Harrison School District 2 to encourage teens to stay in school, as well as an intervention program called Intercept for juvenile offenders.

The WRA partners with nonprofits in the community, such as the Interfaith Hospitality Network, Partners in Housing and TESSA - agencies that help homeless and low-income women and victims of domestic violence on the path to financial and overall independence.

"They are always sending people our way to enhance their experience through the classes that we have, or, if they've already gone through a significant career-readiness program, they'll just come here and we'll just suit them up in outfits and send them on their way," Marts said.

event details

- 11 a.m. Tuesday: "Beauty From the Inside Out" - How to manage stress and increase wellness to succeed on the job.

- 1 p.m. July 16: "Professional Image and Color Workshop" - Women will learn how to update their professional appearance for a first-time interview or upscale their present work image.

- 1 p.m. July 23: The Colorado Springs Police Department will discuss the variety of job positions in the police department, and.what skills are needed.

- 10 a.m. July 30: "Entrepreneur Day" - An opportunity to meet women from multi-level marketing companies SoulScentials, Damsel in Defense, Lia Sophia, Avon, Mary Kay and learn how about business.

RSVP to any or all events by calling 471-3170 or emailing reception@wrainc.org

All events will take place at the Women's Resource Agency, in The Citadel mall, upstairs by J.C. Penney.

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