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Alison Vaughn, Founder of Jackets for Jobs

For 16 years, Jackets for Jobs has helped Detroiters who need it most, find clothes to help them get employment and improve their lives

It’s a Catch-22. In order to get a job, you have to look professional. But in order to afford the clothes to look professional, you’ll probably need to have a job.

Alison Vaughn founded Jackets for Jobs in 2000 in honor of her late sister, who died from cancer.

“When she died, I helped with her funeral arrangements. That’s when I found out that she was a welfare recipient, going through the paperwork,” Vaughn says. “I wanted to do something as a tribute to give back to her.”

Through Jackets for Jobs, Vaughn offers career training and employee etiquette training, in addition to helping people get suited up for an upcoming interview. The organization has six staffers and hundreds of volunteers that help with the training.

“They assist them with looking professional, because many of the ladies that come to us have never put a suit together. Some of the shoes that they have are the only shoes on their feet. Our volunteers and our staff assist them to not only get the job, but to keep the job.”

If a client does get the job after the interview, they are able to come back to the career boutique for two additional professional outfits for free, which helps them build a working wardrobe.

The organization is mainly funded by the City of Detroit, and each woman who goes through the Jackets for Jobs program is referred by one of the numerous agencies under the Michigan WORKS! umbrella.

Vaughn started in a 12-by-12-foot closet inside of a church 16 years ago, and has since grown to help about 18,000 people—and expanded to three locations: one on the east side of Detroit, one on the west side and one in South Africa that was the result of a trade mission trip to the country.

“I noticed that they have the same needs as we do. That’s just universal. Everybody knows you have to have a job. So there was a need there. I did some research and opened up an office there, then we sent some clothes there.”

Since 2007, Jackets for Jobs has had a partnership with T.J.Maxx, and Vaughn says they supply most of the items the organization stocks. Every quarter, T.J.Maxx sends employees to their office to change the inventory around and do the merchandising.

“They actually did the build out for our office on the west side. It looks like a miniature T.J.Maxx. They have invested over a million dollars into Jackets for Jobs.”

Every day is different for Vaughn because every person has a unique story and situation.

“Today it’s going to be a young lady that’s been sleeping in her car and she needs the clothes, so she can go for a job interview to get back on her feet. The next day it’s going to be somebody else that’s never worked before, and they don’t even know how to fill out an application.

“Detroit has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, and as long as that’s true, the need is always going to be there for what we do.”

The heat is on

Even though the temperatures outside are high, there’s no excuse to skip your business etiquette. Here are three easy tips for staying professional at work in the summer.

Tip #1. Shoot for lighter weight fabrics in lighter, conservative colors

Tip #2. No mini skirts, no matter how hot it gets outside

Tip #3. You can never go wrong with a white or cream-colored blouse

If you’d like to make a donation or just to learn more about Jackets for Jobs, visit JacketsForJobs.org.

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