An Eventful Year
The Room Makeover was only one project that Marie and her committee initiated, in an effort to give back to their community. In the same year, Dress For Success would take the stage. Dress for Success is a nonprofit program designed to provide free, professional clothing for women to wear to job interviews and other professional endeavors, once they’ve completed a prescribed training program, who may not be able to afford such clothing under normal circumstances.
Initially, in conjunction with Career Source Polk, formerly Polk Works, the 700+ members of Lakeland’s “Realtor Nation” were encouraged to assemble an outfit to donate to the “closet”. It could include shoes, jewelry, and other accessories, but these items weren’t required. The overarching goal was to simply provide women with the clothing they needed to be confident in an interview and successful in the workplace.
Dress for Success collected nearly 2,500 pieces of clothing its first year of operation, all hand-counted by Marie herself.
“This is God, OK?” Marie said through tears. “I didn’t even know God then, that’s the beauty of it. I didn’t find God until 2014, so it just blows my mind that He had his hand on me my whole life before I even got to this point.”
Within only a few years, Dress for Success grew exponentially. Going into its second year, the project was collecting, in addition to professional clothing , any and all items people no longer needed and wanted to donate to a good cause. Extraneous, assorted clothing made its way to the PACE Center for Girls, The Salvation Army and Lighthouse Ministries, to name a few. The collection that year totaled 4,700 articles of clothing.
The third year: 7,700.
The following year, in 2015, the committee had a problem. With only a few weeks remaining to reach the goal of 10,000 articles of clothing, the committee found itself roughly 2,000 pieces short. With this number in mind, Debra (Debbie) Haskell of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Olive Branch mustered her Realtor team and committed to collecting 1,000 pieces before the deadline.
“We were sitting in a board meeting and when I gave my report, she just stepped up to the plate,” Marie explained.
Others inevitably joined in. The goal was reached and even exceeded, by several hundred pieces of clothing nonetheless.