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Dress for success

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Posted: Sunday, October 9, 2011 12:00 pm

By Krista M. Madkins

Killeen Daily Herald

When Killeen resident Eliseo Rios received a call back for a possible job, his first call was to Chastity Clemons at Central Texas College.

But not just to share in the excitement of potential employment, Rios needed to borrow clothes for the critical in-person interview.

He worked with Clemons, coordinator for the college's Students in Free Enterprise team, to assemble business casual attire: dress pants, a collared shirt and a tie.

"I would actually recommend to anyone who is having difficulty finding a job to attend (the student group's) course," said Rios, as he prepared for his interview in a telecommunication company's customer service department.

As part of the team's Project Upgrade, which is free and open to the public, the student group maintains a lending closet filled with business wear for men and women. Borrowing an outfit for a job interview is free for those who complete the student team's weekly job-preparation workshop.

"I founded a couple of steps in the resume building workshop very helpful," said Rios. "With just a base formatted resume, I learned that it needed a cover letter sheet, separate sheet for employers and another separate sheet for references."

Sandra Jones, a former deaf interpreter who's returning to the job market after an illness, said: "I listened to the resume workshop and (the instructor) tore it down in a step-by-step process."

Clemons said the student team created the lending closet to fill a need in the community. While the closet receives donations from various local sources, including a dry cleaner in Lampasas, the student group maintains and cleans the clothes that job seekers select during appointment-only sessions.

When workshop participants land a new job, "they are then allowed to select three outfits from a separate business closet to keep," said Clemons. The student team also pays for the new employee's lunch on the first day of work.

Clemons said the lending closet concept is so popular with donors and participants that the college is providing more space for clothes. Eventually, the student team plans to have separate closets for women's and men's business wear.

Although the community college's lending closet is reserved for business wear for program participants, other local organizations offer clothes that might be suitable for job interviews.

For example, the Salvation Army offers gently-used clothes. "Prices vary by item, but for business attire, items such as men's and women's collar shirts are $1.75 each," said Susan Landis, head clerk at the Salvation Army Family Store. "Dress pants are $2.50 each, and women's dresses range between $4 to $6." She added that some women's two-piece sets are about $5.

In addition to the Killeen store, the Salvation Army also offers a voucher program for people who cannot afford to buy clothes.

Another local option is the This & That Thrift Store in Copperas Cove. "The store houses a mixture of clothing, including business attire," said Teresa Stinson, a volunteer at The Refuge Corporation, a shelter attached to the This & That Thrift Store.

Contact Krista M. Madkins at kmadkins@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7468.

If you go

What: Central Texas College's Students in Free Enterprise's Project Upgrade

When: Wednesdays from 8:30 to 10 a.m.

Where: Killeen H.E.L.P Center at 718-B N. Fourth St.

Cost: Free

For more information on the lending closet and workshop, call (254) 526-1788.

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