How can professional women make a difference in the lives of other women in their community? The Professional Women’s Association of the Mid-Ohio Valley gave an answer by starting a professional clothing drive to help women who are job hunting put their best image forward. When several members of the community approached PWA about a “Dress for Success” type of closet in the MOV, they did their research to find out if such a service existed. Upon discovery that there were none, PWA members rose to the challenge.
“I don’t think we are any different than women in other areas. We have lots of ladies in transition, underemployed or in need of a hand-up due to no fault of their own. PWA of the MOV is a group of women helping women. We felt this was another good way to meet that objective,” DeAnn Cummings, PWA President, said.
“It is for women of all ages, backgrounds and income levels. We have served ladies who are in shelters due to a family emergency or domestic violence, college students in need of professional clothing for a job interview, ladies who just started a new job but don’t have enough money to buy professional clothing until they receive their first paycheck, or victims of natural disasters or house fires,” Cummings explains.
Since its inception, the closet has gone through a location and name change, but its mission of providing area women quality, professional attire to help them make a positive first impression on potential employers has remained the same.
Owner of River Valley Insurance Agency, Regina Murray, and her staff originally housed and ran the clothing closet in her Williamstown office’s spare room. When she vacated the building in December, her new location couldn’t accommodate the closet’s needs. Soon after, a few members of PWA approached Jocelyn Adelsperger, Executive Director of the Betsey Mills Club in Marietta, about the need for the wardrobe’s new home, and she gladly offered one of the Betsey Mills Club’s vacant dorm rooms. The closet then took on its fitting new name.
The official launch of Betsey’s Closet began with a fashion show on May 25th including catered finger foods hosted by the Betsey Mills Club and co-sponsored by PWA and the Hot Tomato Portrait Studio and Parlor. Courtney Smith of Randomsity 740 styled the models, and Abigail Gedon and Tonya Winebrenner provided their makeup. Smith emceed while the models paraded two looks a piece from the wardrobe’s most stylish finds, including coordinating shoes and jewelry. The Hot Tomato Portrait Studio and Parlor provided swag bags to attendees. Afterwards, tours were offered of the wardrobe’s new space.
Much of the clothing was donated at the Women in Leadership Luncheon hosted by the Chamber of Commerce in Parkersburg last June. Since then, donations have poured in from members of PWA, the Betsey Mills Club, Marietta Zonta, Hot Tomato Portrait Studio and Parlor, Marietta Welfare League, and many individuals. Vienna Jewelry Buyers have generously supplied jewelry as well.
Donations of new or gently worn clothing are accepted and appreciated. Items needed include blouses, camisoles, jackets, suits, pants, dresses, skirts, scrubs, and jewelry. There is especially a need for neutral shoes, hangers, and plus size clothing. Donations can be dropped off to the Betsey Mills Club’s 4th Street door anytime between 9-5pm, Monday through Friday. Monetary donations and volunteers are also welcome. Receipts for tax purposes are available upon request.
Women who are interested in using the closet can call Adelsperger or her assistant, Franci Bolden, at the Betsey Mills Club to make an appointment. If necessary, appointments can be arranged after hours. Women can choose to shop alone or request a volunteer stylist from the Hot Tomato Portrait Studio and Parlor to help them select an outfit complete with accessories and shoes.
Andi Roberts, owner of Hot Tomato Portrait Studio and Parlor, shared her excitement about partnering with the mission: “The mission is in total alignment with our goal to empower all women. We love Betsey’s Closet because it provides not just a needed service for this area, but also it infuses the women that take advantage of it with a dose of confidence.”
Although several women have already been helped, Adelsperger has a larger vision for Betsey’s Closet. “My vision goes beyond offering professional attire to women. I’m looking to apply for grants that will allow us to eventually provide interview skills, talks on professional topics, professional etiquette, and light computer skills to women interested in polishing and updating their skills as they enter the workforce,” said the Betsey Mills Club Director.
Adelsperger takes pride in taking on and expanding Betsey’s Closet because it supports the mission of the Betsey Mill’s namesake founder who started a Monday afternoon sewing circle in her home to mentor young women: “We believe Betsey would be pleased with the community efforts we are seeing to bring this closet into reality. She was a huge proponent of community-based action and furthering women’s goals. Bringing The Betsey Mills Club, The Professional Women’s Association and Hot Tomato Portrait Studio and Parlor together is the perfect trifecta to make this program grow.”
Beth Kohler is the Controller for Kreinik Manufacturing in Parkersburg and a church pianist. She enjoys writing, ballroom dancing, and evening walks on the rail trail in front of her home, which she shares with her husband and two cats. She loves WVU sports and all things sweet and sushi.
Photography by Hot Tomato Pin-Up Academy