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The Power Of A Paycheck

The Power Of A Paycheck

The Costa Mesa life is the good life.

We are lucky in every way to spend our days in such a beautiful, creative, independent city. For some of us, those feelings of gratitude gradually bloom into a deep desire to give back to our neighbors and community. And if it’s giving you want, it’s giving you shall have – our city is positively brimming with ways to help, thanks to the hard work of our hometown heartwarmers, healers and helpers.

No one walks-this-talk of local altruism like the irrepressible Jerri Rosen and her philanthropic tour de force Working Wardrobes, headquartered at 3030 Pullman Street (near Baker) in Northeast Costa Mesa.

Working Wardrobes is doing everything in their power to help “clients” – including men, women, young adults and veterans – overcome difficult challenges, such as substance abuse, prison re-entry, homelessness, catastrophic illness, traumatic financial losses, military-to-civilian transition, and underemployment.

Then, through career training, financial-literacy programs, job placement and personal shopping services, Working Wardrobes provides the tools and training their clients need to confidently enter the workforce and, ultimately, achieve self-sufficiency.

Follow Suit: Volunteers Sort Career Wear And Clothing Donations At Working Wardrobes On Pullman Street In Costa Mesa

photo: b. young forever photography

Working Wardrobes Transforming Lives, In Costa Mesa.
Clothing Racks Full Of Donated Work Attire At Working Wardrobes in Costa Mesa.

At the helm of Working Wardrobes is Founder Jerri Rosen; every inch the poised, gracious, eloquent CEO you’d expect the torchbearer of her organization to be.

“All of this was just a happy accident,” Rosen began with a sweep of her hand at the offices, donation center, classrooms and career wear displays around her. “I never pictured, 25 years ago, that I would be running an organization like this. At the time, I had my own ad agency and was really quite happy and content in the advertising business. But I think we entrepreneurs have a drive to use our unique skills to help people in some way. Those of us with gifts want to share those gifts.”

What started out as a one-time “Day Of Self Esteem” event aiding victims of domestic violence, just took on a life of its own; and has since blossomed into a thriving, mostly volunteer-driven organization empowering people through employment.

“We have close to 5,000 clients, and we could not possibly deliver the services they need without our wonderful volunteers,” said Rosen. “We only have 24 people on staff, so trust me when I say we love our volunteers. They are pieces of gold to be treasured. Many of our volunteers have been with us for years and years, and we could not do this important work without them.”

Makeup Artist And Owner Of Flawless Faces Inc., Carina Lindgren

Wearing Her Heart On A Hanger: Working Wardrobes CEO And Founder, Jerri Rosen, Helps People Help Themselves

photo: b. young forever photography

Hair Styling With A Straightener At Flawless Faces Beauty Lounge In Costa Mesa.

While the value of the volunteers cannot be overstated, it’s clear that Rosen herself is equally integral. She has such clarity about her mission: to bring dignity, self-respect and confidence – along with the power of a paycheck – to as many lives as possible. But what sets Rosen apart is the entrepreneurial savvy, and boots-on-the-ground practicality, with which she brings that mission to life.

“We’re called ‘Working Wardrobes,’ but the clothing is just a small part of what we do,” said Rosen. “About 85% of the time we spend with the client is doing the hard work to restore their self-esteem. People have to experience that respect to really get on their feet.”

Part of that means being mindful about the language used around the office.

“We have one very bad word that we never use and that’s ‘guys,'” said Rosen. “We only refer to those we help as ‘clients’ or ‘ladies and gentlemen’ and that is specifically by design. It’s subtle, so you many not necessarily hear it when you first meet us. But after being called ‘a gentleman’ for a week, two weeks, three weeks – it starts to sink in. You’re being treated a bit better. You hold your head a bit higher. Language can light the path to self-respect.”

“We also work with our clients on honing their ‘elevator pitch,'” said Rosen. “Can you say in 15-30 seconds who you are, the skill set you bring and how that will be positive for the employer? We tell our clients to find out what the company’s greatest needs are; because if you can approach a job as an act of service, it gives the work more meaning and sets you apart from other candidates.

“Then, of course, we put them in a great-looking suit. We don’t want any of our clients to have barriers to success. Quite honestly, a really beautifully-tailored suit on someone who wears it well gives them that extra edge of confidence. Wearing something professional gives a sense of belonging; a sense that, ‘I can interview for this job, I can be a part of this world.’ It’s powerful.”

Working Wardrobes hitting the 25-year mark has given Rosen pause for reflection.

“I suppose at the end of the day, as I look back on the last 25 years of my life, I’m so grateful that people believed in the significance of what I’ve started. They see the success stories and understand the importance of it.  This idea doesn’t work without other people’s generosity. The fact that thousands of donors have invested in our work, it invigorates us. The truth is, we need money to make our mission possible.”

Donations are a huge part of how Working Wardrobes funds its operation. Gently worn, clean professional attire for men and women – everything from business casual to formalwear to shoes and accessories – is greatly appreciated. There is also a wish list on the website highlighting much-needed items. And monetary donations, anything you can spare or pledge, help “build a bridge from a difficult past to a bright future.”

Racks and racks of clothing at Working Wardrobes Thrift Shop in Westside Costa Mesa.

Great Clothes For A Great Cause: You Can Support Working Wardrobes By Shopping At One Of Their Fashionable And Affordable Resale Shops, Like The One In Westside Costa Mesa

photo: b. young forever photography

The accessories rack at Working Wardrobes Thrift Shop in Westside Costa Mesa.

Working Wardrobes Thrift Shop

Only a portion of donated clothing and accessories ends up in the lives of Working Wardrobes clients. The rest get sent out to a network of resale stores and boutiques to help raise additional funding. Costa Mesa has one such shop at the corner of 19th Street and Placentia in Westside Costa Mesa.

“The fashion in resale is really exciting,” said Taysha LaMarca, Manager of the Costa Mesa location. “There are so many possibilities. We get womens wear, mens wear, we have a vintage section. We do accessories. We even get designer brands.

“They’ll send us items and my team goes through to decide what makes the cut. I’m really picky. I have very high standards. If there’s a hole in something, it’s not getting anywhere near my floor. I only want quality.”

LaMarca’s background in costume design and visual merchandising really comes through at the store level. Clothing displays are bright, cheerful, conceptual and well-organized.

“I love Working Wardrobes way more than working corporate retail,” said LaMarca. “This is more interesting. In corporate, you have set items that come in. Here, we never know what we’re going to get. I have to always be on the lookout, be creative about it. What’s going to look good on a mannequin? What am I going to set aside for our best customers? It’s a challenge, but more fun, too.

“Then, obviously, this work is for a really good cause. It’s shopping to make the world a better place.”

Working Wardrobes Manager, Taysha Lamarca, behind the counter at Working Wardrobes Thrift Shop on 19th Street.

Working Wardrobes Thrift Shop Manager, Taysha Lamarca

photo: b. young forever photography

Working Wardrobes Thrift Shop Manager, Taysha Lamarca, holds up her buisness card.

“I think Costa Mesa gets it,” said LaMarca. “It’s got this little, art crowd; it’s cool. People who live here should definitely stop by. Come check us out! Take a shot at resale. Find something individual that not every other person is wearing.”

And as for Rosen, the leading lady who started it all?

“My grand wish is for everyone in Costa Mesa to beat a path to our door; to figure out ways to support a local charity that’s doing some very good, very important work in the community.

“But then, I also want to hear from the people of Costa Mesa: What else can we do for you? How can Working Wardrobes help?'” ♥

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About The Author

The Mesa Maven

The Mesa Maven is a writer, entrepreneur, community organizer and - most importantly - Costa Mesa Superfan!!! She's simply mad for this Mesa On The Coast and all the creative, independent, amazing, everyday things happening in our sunny backyard. The Maven lives with her husband, two kids and guinea Costa Mesa, of course!

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