Davis, 51, of Upper Marlboro, is getting ready to return to work after being without a full-time job for more than two years.
She was fitted one recent afternoon in the makeshift boutique of the D.C. chapter of Dress for Success, a program that helps women polish their job and interview skills and write résumés and that outfits them in suits, shoes, jewelry, blouses and even makeup.
The nonprofit program, with a $250,000 annual budget, relies solely on donations in clothes and funds. It has helped 12,000 women from the Washington area in the past decade, but now the group faces its own challenge.
At this month’s end, Washington’s Dress for Success will be without a permanent location. The lease on its 1,850-square-foot office on Q Street NE is up, and the landlord has rented the space to a tenant who can pay more.
Until it finds a new home, Dress for Success has stopped accepting clothing donations, and workers are boxing up clothes, shoes and purses for storage. The organization will continue to offer classes on skills such as résumé writing and job hunting, as the new tenant has agreed to allow the organization to use one of its conference rooms.
Kim Whatley, the program’s board president, has been scrambling to find a new space. Many buildings she has considered are used by government contractors and have been closed because of the government shutdown.
“It’s like ‘Groundhog Day’ — we’ve been close four times in getting space, but there has been some wrinkle that resulted in not finalizing the deal,” Whatley said. She joined the D.C. Dress for Success board a year ago, and she works during the day as executive director of the Judicial Nomination Commission, a group of local judges, lawyers and residents that selects judicial nominees for the D.C. Superior Court and the D.C. Court of Appeals.
Whatley said D.C. Dress for Success — the local chapter of the organization, which operates in more than a dozen countries — has a lot of community support. Last month, it received more than 1,400 clothing items through the Women’s Congressional Staff Association’s annual donation competition among women in the House and Senate.
“With Capitol Hill, D.C. has a significant population of highly educated and financially secure people to help support those women who are less fortunate and who have had obstacles in their lives that have resulted in an economic crisis,” Whatley said.
D.C. Dress for Success works with women who have been out of work for a long period of time, either because of layoffs, illness, incarceration or drug use. Other clients are seeking to reenter the workforce after staying home to raise children. Clients are referred from some 160 local agencies, including America Works, the Prince George’s County Department of Social Services, Goodwill and the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project.