Bottomless Closet works every day to make sure women in need have access to valuable tools and resources to enter the workforce and succeed.
In 2018 alone, Bottomless Closet had:
More than 4,200 client interactions
More than 2,700 unique clients served
78 attendees at our Career Days
More than 1,000 attendees at our in-house workshops
Additional examples of our impact on the women we serve:
98% of clients surveyed cited Bottomless Closet as a key factor in their success.
59% of respondents indicated, immediately following their Bottomless Closet appointment, they were hired for the job for which they interviewed
Of the 41% who did not get that job, 50% got another job.
At the time of the survey, 56% of respondents were working
—55% had been working for three months or less, 40% had been
working between three months and one year, and 5% had been
working for longer than one year.
WE TURN APPLICANTS INTO CANDIDATES
When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in the fall of 2017, Marianette, a single mom, hid with her two young daughters in the blackened out hallway of their home as the storm shook and cracked her concrete walls, took down trees, flooded her home, blew out windows in her neighborhood, and tossed their car around like a toy.
“We sat there for 12 hours, just listening to the wind,” recalled Marianette. “The communication was out. There were no cell phones, there was no radio, no electricity, nothing. It was just the wind and the darkness. It was daytime and it went completely dark. I’ve never felt that kind of fear in my life. I was trying to keep calm for my girls, but I was just praying not to have a heart attack. They were saying to me, “Mommy I’m scared,” and they were crying next to me. I just told them, “It’s okay to be scared. I’m scared too. But everything is gonna be fine; we’re gonna be fine.”
“We opened the door and went outside, and it was like it was another place. It was like a bomb hit the ground and burned everything. There were no trees, there was nothing, it was totally devastated,” remembers Marianette.
With no electricity, no food, no gas, and no clean water, Marianette knew her daughters couldn’t stay in those conditions. They grabbed whatever remaining belongings they had and went to her mother’s house a couple of hours away, further inland. “And then the nightmare continued,” said Marianette. “We wouldn’t have water for another month. We had to take little sips of water to save what we had for everybody. There were 13 of us in the house with my mom, my brothers, and my kids. So every day, we were able to give my girls one glass of water each. For us, it was half a glass.”
In the beginning, Marianette didn’t want to leave Puerto Rico. It was the only home she and her daughters had ever known. She had always worked two jobs, as an art teacher and an event planner. But with the schools closed due to conditions that were sickening the students, and no one planning special events, she couldn’t find work. Unable to pay their rent and struggling for food, Marianette made the decision to move to Florida. A friend of hers let them stay at her house until her landlord made them leave, at which point her friend’s sister invited them to stay with her in New York City.
When she was referred to Bottomless Closet by Goodwill, she didn’t know what her appointment was going to be like. “They were going to help me to be able to look good on my first day at work, but I was shocked. I’m really grateful. My coach was so nice. She made me feel so, so special. I was a little bit worried about my first day of work because I don’t have the proper stuff to wear. And she helped me with everything.”
“I ended up getting hired by Mercy Drive. It’s a company that works with families that have people with disabilities, so I’m going to be a caseworker, so I’m going to be in contact with the family, and try to be the mediator with them and the proprietors so they can get all the help for the needs they have. And now I get to help other people with my job. I think at some point, you have to pay it back. And that’s really a good thing to do … and I want to do it,” said Marianette.
“I think that there’s a lot of people out there like me – and I was lucky. I was really lucky,” said Marianette. “I have a roof, and I have food every day on the table. We are really lucky. I know it was painful and we’re still missing home and asking ourselves why this happened, why your life changes in one day – just like that – but we’re lucky, because there’s a lot of people out there that don’t have anywhere to go. Yes, we lost a lot of stuff, but we’re here … and I have a lot of angels.”
While she’s working, she’s trying to put on a brave face for her two daughters and help them feel at home in New York. “I have to do something for my little ones – I can’t just sit here and cry about what happened to me,” said Marianette. “I’m going to encourage my girls to move on and feel good and be happy.”
Cristal’s journey from her first appointment at Bottomless Closet to where she is today is a true testament to the strength and resilience of our clients. The daughter of two hearing-impaired parents on public assistance for people with disabilities, Cristal lived in Section 8 Housing for a good majority of her life. Prior to finishing college, her mother was unable to cover the rent and in 2011, they were evicted from their home. After connecting with Fedcap Rehabilitation Services, they referred Cristal to Bottomless Closet for her first appointment.
“I was amazed at the experience you feel when arriving at the boutique,” recalls Cristal. In addition to receiving interview clothing, Cristal was able to polish her resume and prep for her interview with one of our volunteer Career Coaches. She quickly obtained employment and was able to take advantage of the resources that both Fedcap and Bottomless Closet were able to provide.
Since visiting Bottomless Closet, Cristal says she has felt more empowered. “It’s not just a place where you receive clothing.
It is an environment where you can feel absolutely beautiful and confident in your capabilities. Most importantly, your experience at Bottomless Closet will change your perspective and attitude about your self-value.”
Things ultimately came full-circle for Cristal, as the agency that referred her to Bottomless Closet offered her a full-time job. She now works in Fedcap’s WeCARE Program, where she focuses on assisting those who were once in her position, and referring new clients to Bottomless Closet. Cristal helps provide her clients with various employment services including job preparation and job development.
Fluent in American Sign Language, she is also able to assist Fedcap’s hearing-impaired clients.
Stephanie is starting her career in the same place where she started her education – the very same elementary school in Queens that she attended as a kid.
“I am going to be a family worker there, so basically a social worker. The school goes from kindergarten all the way through fifth grade. I’ll be able to help the kids with lots of things – family needs, issues, questions – all of that.”
Her favorite part about her new job is that she can be there for kids in a way that she did not experience herself. “I’ll be a mentor for them. It’s what I’ve wanted to do my entire life, because I didn’t have that growing up, so I feel like that’s what I wanted to do with my life – help those in need.”
In fact, you might say it is in her genes. “My aunt is a social worker, too. Before I went on the interview, she encouraged me to just be myself and be genuine and ‘people will love you as you are,’ and it worked.”
Turns out that there were a few familiar faces when she arrived for her interview. “As soon as I got into the office at the school, I started recognizing some of the office staff and some of the teachers that I had. It was really nice. I feel like there’s good energy there.”
On top of her new job, Stephanie is also going to school for social work – she is currently half-way through her Bachelors for Human Services.
Taieisha has been dancing since she was a kid, and soon she will be dancing (well, walking) down the aisle of an airplane as a brand new flight attendant for a major airline.
“I’ve been dancing since I was three years old, and I’ve even danced backup for Rihanna, at the VMAs (the MTV Video Music Awards), and once for Drake, too. I also dance for an urban burlesque group here in the city, and I’m a dance teacher for young girls, too.”
Despite dancing in front of crowds, she admits she was super nervous about the interview process. She credits her appointment at Bottomless Closet with giving her the confidence she needed. “After I left here, and I could see myself dressed up like that, it gave me the confidence to go in there and kill the interview. They told me right afterward that I got the job.”
Taieisha has always loved traveling, so she is excited that this job will enable her to do more of it. “And with the career path I’m trying to take now, the flexibility will still allow me to dance, so I think it’s going to be great.”
After completing a month of training in Minneapolis, she will be flying the friendly skies.
When LaToya came in for her first appointment, she said her volunteer career coach only made some subtle tweaks here and there to her resume. Little did she know though, that those subtle tweaks would make a world of difference in her job search. “I had been looking for a job for months, but after I came to Bottomless Closet for the first time, I was offered a job the very same day as my next interview,” recalls LaToya. “Responses to my new resume have been flooding in since then, and I’ve had multiple job offers, including for higher-paying positions than the ones I applied for.”
LaToya began working at Radio City Music Hall just in time for the holiday season, where she was given a supervisory position instead of the entry-level role she’d originally submitted her resume in response to. “The improvements made to my resume helped my skills and personality really shine.”
The fall of 2017 was incredibly difficult for Cricely. “I came here from Puerto Rico on October 15. I was born and raised here in New York, but when I was 14 I moved to Puerto Rico with my mother, so she could take care of my grandfather, and eventually we ended up staying there. I was there for 20 years.
And then Hurricane Maria happened.
“I’ve been through other hurricanes before, like George, but none of them compare to Maria. It was horrible. We had no power, no nothing. With Maria, I had a hunch that the banking systems would be down, so we had taken as much cash out of the bank as we could beforehand.”
As it turns out, her hunch was pretty accurate. “The next day, it was so bad. Two days after the hurricane, going to the supermarket, getting stuff, it was horrible. The lines were three or four hours, and then they would only let you buy certain stuff – one loaf of bread, one pack of bottled water. If you didn’t gas up before Maria, you’d have to sleep at the gas station the night before in order to get gas by 5 o’clock the next afternoon. The lines took that long. It was scary. There was no water to flush the toilets. You’d expect that they’d have water, but they didn’t. No clean drinking water. I actually took a couple of showers in the rain,” she recalls.
Despite going through that horrific disaster, Cricely was more worried about her family members back in New York. “I knew our family here couldn’t contact us, and we were worried for them. We wanted to let them know as soon as possible, but we had to wait two weeks before the city of San Juan at least had phone service, so we could go into the city and try to make phone calls. That was about a 50-minute drive. And the roads were covered in trees, street signs, debris, even dead animals. It was scary.”
Before the hurricane, Cricely made a living as a seamstress and a custom tailor. “I would do custom designs and patterns; I was a clothing designer. But there’s no economy there for that right now.” This week, Cricely is starting her new job as an elevator operator for an intergovernmental organization, working with the building’s security team.
She is currently staying in a shelter with her husband, who is also unemployed and looking for work. “It’s very hard. There’s a lot of screaming and fighting, so it’s impossible to sleep. The only thing they give you is the room. You have to share a bathroom, which is never clean. And there’s no kitchen, so you can’t cook your own meals. And the shelter does not provide food. Right now, thankfully I got a job, so hopefully I’ll be able to eat better soon.”
When she came to Bottomless Closet, she was surprised to find work clothing in her size. “I didn’t think I would find something here because everywhere else, there aren’t a lot of plus-size clothes. When I came here and I saw the blazer and the pants that were presented to me, and the shoes, I was really happy. Everything was nice and professional looking. That was surprising to me, so I really liked that.”
As for the future, Cricely says she would love to go back to school and get her Bachelor’s degree, and eventually start her own plus-size clothing line.
Mireille lost her job two months ago, at a time when her house was in complete chaos. Not only had she been working very long hours at her last job, but she was also selflessly collecting donations of clothing and other items for children in Haiti, and organizing them in her tiny studio apartment – something she still does.
She says she felt an instant pick-me-up during her appointment. “I think that what you people are doing at Bottomless Closet is fantastic. Your volunteer coached me and she kind of perked up my trust in myself. She dressed me like a very professional person,” Mireille says.
Turns out that the outfit worked. “When I walked into the interview, all eyes just turned and they looked at me walking in there with confidence. I mean, I have clothes here and there, but I was going to meet the CFO of the company. After I was dressed by one of your coaches, I felt like, “Here I come!”
Her confidence came from more than just the clothes though. “My coach trained me on how to answer the interview questions, and what questions to ask them, too. When I asked one of the questions that my coach encouraged me to ask, the eyes of the CFO went like, wow. They were very impressed.”
“After the interview, everybody was very pleased, and they told me that they would get back to me in less than a day.” They did, and they offered Mireille an accounting job. “I am going to be an Accounts Receivable Specialist.”
“I thank you guys at Bottomless Closet for giving me the confidence. From the time I walked in the door here, the energy, the environment, everything was inviting.”
Now that she is working again, she hopes to package up more donations to send to children in Haiti very soon.
Roselyn’s personal hero is her mother. “She raised four children by herself, working two jobs as an assistant teacher,” she says, beaming.
To this day, her mother is a constant source of advice and inspiration for her. “She always knows how to make the worst situation into a better situation.”
She looks for solutions immediately – something Roselyn thinks she inherited from her mother. “She would always say to me, ‘This is not the end of it; you have other options. I need you to be a strong, confident woman.’ She would just encourage me to deal with the situation the best way you can, and then from there you can move forward.”
Before Roselyn came to Bottomless Closet, when she was really struggling, her mom’s words would pop into her brain. She would say, ‘You’re not going to give up – we’re not going to do that. Because then what is the point? What is the point of struggling to then just give up?’ So she always reinforced that into us.”
Roselyn has a job right now, but she dreams of getting into a career where she can make a difference. “I would love to help people. I would love to give back. If I could work with veterans, the elderly, the homeless, battered women or abused children, I would love that.” She could easily see herself transitioning into a career as a home health aide for those who cannot care for themselves. “I want to make a difference. I feel like I was put on this earth to help. I have a very big heart. I want to give back.”
Through working, she has realized that it is about so much more than just having a job or punching a clock. “I want to feel good and be happy going to work. I want to enjoy my job, enjoy my career, and do something that is meaningful.”