When people ask about the road trip, one of my reoccurring takeaways is that “we met the best people everywhere we went.” One perk to building a trip on service was the opportunity to meet and work with amazing nonprofit organizations everywhere we went.
South Dakota was no exception. We met the President and Executive Director of Black Hills, South Dakota’s Dress for Success Program and were able to provide them with brand new bras and undergarments for the clients they serve. Without further ado, allow me to introduce Sarah Baker (pictured above, second from left) and her amazing work.
Liz: Let's start in traditional Smile Project fashion - give me a "Happiness is.."
Sarah: Happiness is building confidence in others so that they can see the potential they have to be their best version of themselves. To empower others to see in themselves as what we might already see in them.
Liz: Tell me a little bit about the organization.
Sarah: Just over 2 years ago, my now VP Kristi Johnson and I met at a resume review event for the students of the School of Mines and Technology. She told me all about Dress for Success and asked if we had an affiliate in Rapid City. I told her that I had never heard of it and asked her to share more. That was the spark that started it all.
Dress for Success is a worldwide non-profit organization that helps women who are looking for work and advancement opportunities. Our Mission is to help women achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and life. We work with local non-Profits to identify women who are actively interviewing or beginning new positions that may not have the means to gain proper clothing or career coaching. They are referred to us through other non-Profits when they have an interview scheduled and we schedule them for an interview suiting in our boutique. During this interview suiting, we provide them with 1 interview appropriate outfit, shoes, jewelry and a handbag. Then we work with them on interview prep and expectations. Once they have acquired a position, we bring them back to the boutique for a weeks' worth of mix and match separates. We coach them on first days/week/month on the job: how to ask for feedback and how to develop goals. Eventually, we hope to create a professional networking group, like other worldwide affiliates, where they will be matched with mentors, to provide coaching opportunities and to prepare them for lifelong learning and a supportive environment to grow and develop.
While working at Adecco Staffing, we see many people come through that either don't have the means or the knowledge base to dress for success. We identified a need in our area that was missing, and Dress for Success has helped to fill this need.
Liz: What is the driving force behind what you do?
Sarah: To help the women in our community become empowered to find a better world of work. We realize that everyone needs a hand up at some point in their careers. We are excited to be that service point on their journey to independence.
Liz: What does "service" mean to you?
Sarah: Service means offering resources to assist others to be their best. Believing in people even if they don't see it in themselves yet. Offering support and encouragement even on your worst day, in order to make it their best day.
Liz: How can people get involved?
Sarah: We are always looking for more volunteers. You can follow our events, volunteer opportunities and donation intake dates by following us on Facebook or by emailing us at email@example.com. To learn more you can go to our website.
Liz: Anything else you'd like to add?
Sarah: This experience has helped all of us realize that when we help others, it ends up helping us. This has been the best experience of my life and I love to give others the same experience.
Working with Sarah – even though brief – was nothing short of inspiring. She exudes joy in every act and truly believes in her mission. Reading her responses, one thing really stuck out to me: Service is offering support and encouragement, even on your worst day, in order to make it their best day. Sarah absolutely exudes the idea of service above self, sharing kindness in her every day.
To learn more, visit https://blackhills.dressforsuccess.org/
Liz: What's your favorite quote?
“You will never passively find what you do not actively pursue."