Today: Apr 21, 2024

Professional clothing drive to help ex-offenders

Ivylee Rosario | Southern News Melissa Richard answering e-mails for the professional clothing drive.

Ivylee Rosario – News Reporter

For Melissa Richard, a professional clothing drive was the best idea to help the most amounts of people who needed to find jobs in a timely manner, she said.

The professional clothing drive is aimed towards assisting ex-offenders who are re-entering society and are facing obstacles when it comes to getting hired.

“This was the most feasible thing to do, was a professional clothing drive,” Richard said. “We decided it would reach the most people and the project was more hands on.”

The idea for the professional clothing drive was for an advocacy project about social change in the social work department of University of Connecticut. As a group project, a population and an issue they are facing was chosen to provide some betterment to the specific group.

The clothes that are being collected will be sent to two agencies in Connecticut, Next Step which is an all women’s resource center located in Willimantic, and Weed and Seed which is both a men and women’s resource center located in Hartford. Both centers concentrate on helping ex-offenders make new lives for themselves after being released from jail.

“I was very happy to see how much clothes were donated for the drive. This shows that people do care and want to help create change for this population to obtain jobs,” said Jasmine Williams, one of the group members whose job was advertising the drive.

“Working with ex-offenders at my last internship, I witnessed the lack of job training skills and business attire they had. By having this drive and working on this advocacy project, I feel more empower to help this population re enter the community after incarceration.”

Unfortunately for many ex-offenders, businesses and organizations may not want to hire them due to their history, but the truth is that appearances do matter a great deal when going out and finding a job.

“We thought this was the first step to getting ex-offenders that just come out of jail with very little resources and very little supplies to get back into society,” said Jenna Aceycek, a group member of the project. “Having proper attire leads to an interview, which eventually leads to a job.”

The clothing drive lasted about a week and a half starting Monday, Nov. 5 and ending on Friday, Nov. 16. Items accepted by the drive are lightly used men’s and women’s clothing items that fall under the professional category. Also accepted are briefcases and women’s purses that will accompany the clothing pieces.

The group chose a few different places to hold the clothing drive; Southern was chosen because Richard went to school here prior to becoming a graduate student at Uconn.

Ivylee Rosario | Southern News
Melissa Richard answering e-mails for the professional clothing drive.

“I decided to come back to Southern and share this idea because I know we have such a great community here that faculty and students would want to help out,” Richard said. “I still have a lot of contacts and people here who are willing to help so I figured I’d share this idea with the community here and get more people involved.”

The group aspires to have this idea picked up by other communities and the word of helping these less fortunate ex-offenders will spread and create a following, said Dennis Tomczak, another group member of the project.

Richards said they have collected 19 sweaters, five pairs of shoes, seven men’s suits, eight skirts, nine women’s dress pants, eight blouses, three women’s suits, three purses, and some other random items. In total, Southern has collected over 71 items.

“I’m expecting for there to be even more donations because I’ve received tons of emails from both faculty and staff asking where the drop-off location is,” Richard said.  “Everyone is asking when the drive is lasting till and where the donations will be accepted, so hopefully we get even more clothing.”

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