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Great Women’s & Children’s Charities: I would pay someone to dress me honestly.

By Melissa Summers

I rarely highlight charities on my personal website. This is not because there aren’t millions of amazing and worthwhile places to give our time and money. It’s more that I have trouble narrowing down which charities to share. I start with one and this leads me to another and then I feel like but there’s so much need every where and pretty soon I have a 10 page long post and I know you love reading my ramblings but eventually you have to do other things, like make money to donate to worthwhile charities.

So for today’s Buzz Off I thought I’d share a few I’ve been hearing about in the last couple of weeks. I stuck with (mostly) American charities which help women, mothers and children in need and you can look for other places to give your time, money and gently used items here.

As a 20 year old, attempting to get my first barely professional job with a bank, I wore an outfit to my second interview, which at the time seemed entirely appropriate but as it turned out was not really appropriate at all. This was not because I was disadvantaged or working my way off welfare but because I was 20 and barely capable of putting an outfit together, 10+ years later I am still barely able to assemble an outfit.

I was hardly qualified for this position as a bank teller with a large bank, but a friend of my family was dear friends with the president of the bank, so I was sort of allowed in anyway. I will never forget the incredible humiliation of leaving the second interview in a navy blue blazer and brown linen pants (it was summer!) and having the (sort of unpleasant) HR woman say to me, “Miss Williams, your panties are showing through your pants.”

Oh my God I still want to die when I even type that sentence. How was it possible? How did no one notice this before I got to the interview? Thank God it was a woman. A woman who I suspect was not entirely offended by my visible panty lines but more offended that the president of the bank was forcing her to hire me. Not surprisingly, I became a little more afraid of clothes and job interviews after that experience.

dressforsuccess.jpgWhich brings me to Dress For Success. Dress For Success is an organization founded in 1997 supplying an interview appropriate suit to women referred from various non-profits and welfare to work programs when they have a job interview, preferrably something which is not see-through. The women can then get a second suit or separates when they find work. The right clothes can help anyone in the interview process, I know this first hand. The organization has served over 300,000 women around the world. The organization has also expanded to offer career counseling and a support group for women transitioning into the workforce off welfare.

Amy let us know last week that Laura Bennett from Project Runway is the spokesperson for Dress For Success. Last week was the Dress for Success Send One Suit donation drive. An average of 30% of the annual suit needs are met during Send One Suit week. I missed this week because I was busy blabbering about birthday parties and wallpaper removal. Real nice. But you can still help Dress For Success by reading more here. I love this idea among my friends because a good portion of my girlfriends have lots of very nice suits from their career days before children. Some are still working but have great work clothes from before that first baby arrived and reshaped their bodies.

I’d been thinking a lot about Dress For Success and looking for similar sites. Then Friday night my husband and I watched Chris Rock on Inside The Actor’s Studio and in between Chris Rock’s clever use of the word “Mother F*ck*r” and James Lipton’s dramatic affectation it came to me. Style Works.

styleworks.jpgMalaak Rock, Chris’s wife, is founder and executive director of Style Works. It’s an organization who’s mission is similar to Dress For Success. They receive referrals from 22 different New York based job training and referrals programs, giving image consultations, grooming services, makeovers to in-need women entering the workforce. Dress for Success also gives clients business etiquette counseling and shares interview techniques with clients. I had a hair cut earlier this year and I can’t tell you how it changed my outlook, add to that the eyebrow arch I got a few weeks later and I felt like I could take on the world. There’s no doubt feeling attractive and prepared gives women power and confidence.
You can support styleWorks by donating money so the organization can continue to grow. You can also donate “…new or gently used interview appropriate accessory items, including handbags, jewelry, shoes, and scarves, as well as new beauty products that have not been used or opened.” Check the styleWorks site for the address and for more ways to get involved.

pajamaprogram.gifGoing along with our book charities from a few weeks ago, the Pajama Program provides children in need with new cozy pajamas and a new book as they wait for adoption. Founded in 2001 the Pajama Program is partnered with several children’s welfare agencies nationwide, they’ve also expanded the program sending pajamas overseas to Bosnia, South Africa and Greece among other countries.

To support The Pajama Project you can look at this page for more information. You can provide financial support or send along new pajamas and books to the provided address. Even better, organize a Pajama Drive at your school or with your service organization. Because I love sleep, pajamas are a cause I can really get behind.

cradlestocrayons.jpgCradles to Crayons, founded in 2002, provides low income and homeless children in the Boston and Philadelphia area with everyday essential supplies. It costs $25 for Cradles To Crayons to assemble a package of basic supplies all children should have. After a month of birthdays in my son’s class, including his own, I love the idea of donating a package in a child’s name in lieu (or in addition to) their birthday gift. Our kids are so fortunate, I often question how ‘spoiled’ and entitled they are becoming. There are many other ways to get involved as well, take a look at the donate page for more ideas.

Do you have a favorite local or national innovative charity which helps women, parents and/or children? There’s so much need, I love narrowing down all the choices with ones people have experience with, especially those which are local.

Melissa Summers
About the Author

Melissa Summers

Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.


Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.

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  • northern girl

    March 20, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    Project Linus ( is a favorite of mine.

  • Dirka

    March 20, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    My current charity is the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Our team is trying to collect $10,000!!
    Amy’s helping us out!

  • epoh

    March 20, 2007 at 4:57 pm

    This more of an international charity, but I really think the work they do is amazing –

  • goslingblogger

    March 20, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    I love what the Oglala Sioux Tribe Victims Assistance
    in Indian Country (VAIC) does. You can find them here. These families are truly needy and VAIC has a teeny budget — every donation has a big impact.

  • Amy

    March 20, 2007 at 5:51 pm

    My favorite charity is the one I volunteer for (which, if you’ve got the time, volunteering for a charity is way more useful than money). It’s for survivors of domestic and sexual assult in Macomb and Wayne Counties (part of the Detroit Metro area). We always need stuff for our shelter because when a woman takes her kids and disapears from her husband, she’s limited to only one bag.

  • Melissa

    March 20, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    You can also look for similar local clothes sharing organization. We have to job placement non-profits that are run locally that do just that.
    Also, I want to toss in my Breast Cancer 3-Day url into the mix.

  • Heather

    March 20, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    I donate every year to Variety the Children’s Charity (international, but I donate to Pittsburgh – ). They do a radioathon where you can buy one “Buddy Bear” for $200, which pays for one special needs child to attend a really great camp that summer. It is pretty awesome.

  • justthemommy

    March 20, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    When I was in the hospital after giving birth to my daughter, we happened to watch Oprah and saw a story about fistulas in Ethiopia (follow-up here: Talk about feeling spoiled and overindulged – I was worrying about whether or not I could have a Diet Coke while these women – teenage girls, really – are suffering through days of childbirth alone in the bush, usually ending in a stillbirth, and then the physical injuries so severe that they are left to be eaten by hyenas. Wow. Ever since then, the Fistula Foundation – has been one my favorite charities.

  • pnutsmama

    March 20, 2007 at 8:02 pm

    you’ve made me cry yet again…one of my summer job interviews at a publishing company ended with a lovely woman suggesting that I should really have a suit for interviews (vs. the cleaned up art student look i had going for me at the time)- and while my family and i could afford to purchase one, it boggles the mind to consider how many young women out there can not. thanks for bringing our attention to this.
    a personal favorite charity of ours is to anonymously sponsor a child a portion of their tuition at our local parish school. our parish has a scholarship fund and they divide it up and give it to the kids that have the most need, and we know that part of our money stays local and directly goes to a deserving child in our area.

  • Jenn C.

    March 20, 2007 at 8:13 pm

    I second your support of Cradles to Crayons. My knititng group donates handknits to them for the kids in their program.
    I’d also suggest – this is a group that takes and vets proposals from teachers in various cities (many of them costing under $1000).
    Once approved, the group posts those requests on their website. Donors can browse or search through the proposals and choose which ones they would like to help fund.
    I can’t often browse through the site without tearing up, as it’s so obvious that some of these kid and schools have so little to work with.
    It’s one of my favorite charities to give to when I can.

  • Michele

    March 20, 2007 at 9:17 pm

    Thanks for the links to Dress for Success. They have a location by me, and the drop of day is last Saturday of the month. Score! I have some new business clothes (ordered from a catalog, don’t like, never returned, DOH) to donate, and I have been looking for a similar organization. Really appreciate the information.

  • SparklieSunShine

    March 20, 2007 at 9:58 pm

    I am so glad you choose to highlight Dress For Success. I never thought much about it until I became a Lia Sophia Advisor because that is our cause that we donate to. It’s such a worthwhile cause and I am so glad they do what they do.

  • kate

    March 21, 2007 at 9:48 am

    My mom has given lots of stuff to an organization like Dress for Success that is based out of the town she lives in. She said that they are especially in need of “larger” clothes.
    I’m very puzzled about this present thing. I had never heard about that. In my school (back in the day) we just brought in a cake, or cupcakes. There were no presents. I’m dreading thinking about those things.

  • Melanie

    March 21, 2007 at 9:48 am

    These ideas are so fantastic. I have to admit I’m not usually a donator, because money isn’t something I have in spades, but I’ve been searching for a place to volunteer with my son for a while now, so maybe one of these places will work for that. It’s hard to find somewhere you can bring a 4 year old to help out, but I know he’d love it and I don’t have a babysitter!

  • dish

    March 21, 2007 at 10:01 am

    I volunteer for Genesis of Pittsburgh (, which is a social services agency that helps women with unplanned pregnancies. They are non-political and non-sectarian, which is great because instead of standing on street corners waving banners with pictures of aborted fetuses, they step in with counseling, services, housing, supplies, and pretty much anything else a women might need at that time. They also help with adoption placement if she chooses, but they help all of the women regardless of whether they choose to parent or place. They essentially provide action where it is needed and don’t just talk too much.
    BTW (if it matters) I am politically pro-choice, but I am in complete support of the action provided by this group, so I give them my all.
    Thanks for the great post, Melissa.

  • Kaleigh

    March 21, 2007 at 10:07 am

    I never miss an opportunity to plug St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I have several friends who have children who are (or were) patients at St. Jude, and seeing their children heal and grow, run around (when the first doctor said the child would never walk), etc., and knowing that St. Jude will never ask these families for a DIME for treatment? Makes it the best place on earth.

  • Kathy

    March 22, 2007 at 12:58 am

    I have been involved with Habitat for Humanity for about 10 years on and off. Although I don’t have the stats I would have to guess that the majority of the families they help have children. For those who don’t know, this is an organization that gets people out of substandard housing and slums by making them homeowners…the partner families start by working hundreds of hours of “sweat equity” on OTHERS homes before they are chosen for a home, then more hours on their own home, which they pay for on a no-interest mortgage that fits their budget, and their mortgage payments in turn go back into the fund to help build more homes. There is a parent organization (HFH International as well as local affiliates all over the world that do the actual building (from the HFHI website you can locate your local affiliate.) I like to donate to several affiliates directly that I have worked with over the years.

  • Kat

    March 22, 2007 at 1:17 am

    Thanks for the reminder about Dress for Success. I have a postpartum suit that I hope to never fit into again 😉 that’s been worn all of three times. Now I know what to do with it.

  • andrea from the fishbowl

    March 22, 2007 at 10:22 am

    Melissa (and everyone!) … what a great list.
    In our family we donate to the biggies: Heart and Stroke, Canadian Cancer etc. Our other regular donation is via World Vision. For the past few years we’ve bought fruit trees and rabbits … things like that, for families in third world countires out of the gift catalogue they have posted on their website.
    I think it’s incredibly important to involve the kids in your charitable outreach. I truly believe that charity, as an act, is a learned behaviour. You can never start them too young.

  • jkopftwins

    March 22, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    We’ve donated to Heifer International (, which provides animals (or you can sponsor *part* of a flock, for instance) to families who have little source of spending money or protein worldwide, including the U.S. The deal is, they can then have eggs (or whatever) to eat, sell their extra and share the offspring with neighbors to keep the gift going.