Sisterhood of the Empowering Clothes
By Rachel E. Pate
Located on the Quinn Campus in the heart of east Waco, Esther’s Closet promotes empowerment, education and provides a much-needed resource to the women of the city. Launched on March 29, 2016, Esther’s Closet is a self-sufficiency program that assists unemployed women in preparing for interviews and entering the workforce by providing no-cost, professional clothing. Esther’s Closet clients are suited with a complete head-to-toe professional look for job interviews and 7 to 10 days of outfits for new employment. Clients who maintain steady employment are eligible to receive two additional outfits quarterly. Workwear options include business professional attire, medical scrubs and restaurant/retail clothing. In addition to providing employment wear, the program also offers resume writing and job performance skills to help women. To date, the program has assisted 334 women and provided 1,069 outfits.
As the Esther’s Closet Coordinator, I have a great deal of interaction with our clients. Our program’s numbers are a testament to our impact in the community, however they do not reveal the many faces and testimonies of these wonderful women. Some are single, proud moms, sole providers, just starting out, ready to start over, coming back, building up, etc. I’ve shared in countless tearful moments with clients on my office sofa discussing the obstacles we have overcome and those we still face. I’ve calmed the nervousness in the dressing room while helping someone prepare for a job interview in less than 30 minutes. I even taught a client how to properly apply her makeup for the first time by doing a side-by-side tutorial in the mirror. Being able to give my sincerest service and watching others’ confidence bloom before my eyes is a blessing to behold.
My passion is helping every client uncover her business fierceness; the ability to see herself be anything and do anything. When clients visit our office for the first time, they’re never quite sure what to expect. When they’re greeted by our professional staff, given a tour and shown to our boutique, their anxiety seems to subside a bit and is replaced with awe and excitement.
Our racks are filled with fashionable finds that make the suiting experience an easy one to get into. I often take the time to act as a personal shopper; finding the right sizes, shades and shapes to flatter clients’ frames. From baubles and belts to skirts and scrubs, Esther’s Closet has everything to send our clients out of our doors feeling empowered to take on the work world. One client felt so great about her new outfit, she wore it out of our office to her interview and forgot her own clothes in our dressing room for a few days!
I often speak from my heart and share my own testimony with my clients. I can relate to what it’s like to search for a new opportunity in life, only to be met with socioeconomic setbacks and hardships. As a new mom, some time ago, I found myself walking through the doors of my first post-partum interview, and I had no idea how ill-prepared I was with my outfit. I wore a comfortable blouse with dark denim slacks and my lucky, leather Chuck Taylor’s… Most employers might’ve interviewed me and never called back, but fortunately this interviewer pointed out that I wasn’t very professionally dressed. That moment changed my perception. That sincere observation and audacious statement helped me realize the invaluable importance of dressing for a successful first business impression. I decided then that if the company ever called me back, I would most assuredly show them just how professional I could be. A little over a month I received a call back, and I seized my opportunity. That same interviewer was highly impressed with my charm, knowledge and experience. This was all while I was wearing a tailored black suit with pumps and carrying a briefcase. I’d discovered my own business fierce, and I landed the job.
There’s just something about helping one another that appeals to the very best parts of our nature. It gives you an outlet for love and an inlet for hope. Every day I walk through the doors of Esther’s Closet, I’m granted with yet another opportunity to see how empowering someone else makes me and the nature and soul of our community much more hopeful- one outfit at a time.
Rachel E. Pate is a native Wacoan and University High School alum. She currently works as the Public Relations person for the Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce and serves as Coordinator for the Esther’s Closet program for women. She’s also a proud mom of one, lifelong member of Toliver Chapel (TCMBC) Church, graduate of the LeadershipPlenty Institute, lover of the great outdoors, an avid basketball fan and a dedicated wearer of Converse’s Chuck Taylor shoes.
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