March 24th, 2013 / posted by paularath

The Laniakea YWCA on Richards Street opened the doors to its new home for the Dress for Success program yesterday and the excitement of staff and volunteers was palpable.

The space is really lovely, from the welcoming front doors to the well-stocked racks of clothing and shoes. There are three private dressing rooms and soon a three-way mirror. There’s also a room where the clients can have practice job interviews, as well as an area for watching video training tools.

Dress for Success client Yvette Hamalian is a real success story.

The midday program was touching and emotional, especially when Yvette Hamalian, a client of Dress for Success, told her story. She was formerly homeless and a victim of domestic violence who turned to crystal meth for solace. She was incarcerated and was referred to Dress for Success when she was released from prison and needed to prepare for job interviews. She is now working as a medical assistant in a homeless shelter, giving back to her community. Articulate and passionate, she had me in tears.

Dress for Success in Honolulu held more than 500 “suiting sessions” last year. These sessions are not simply putting clothes on a client’s back. They also involve encouragement, mentorship, tips on presenting oneself (hair, makeup, posture, clothing, attitude) and raising self-esteem. “It started with mentors believing in me,” Yvette told the audience. “Incarcerated women are capable of anything we want to do.”

It was an honor for our YWCA to have Joi Gordon at the event. She is Dress for Success World Wide CEO, a woman who gave up being a lawyer to work in the non-profit sector. Why? “Because women walk through our door with their heads down and leave with their heads up,” she explained simply.

Gordon announced the launch of a new program, Going Places Network and Career Center. It’s an eight-week employment series for unemployed, under employed and hard to employ clients referred by agencies partnering with the YWCA. Opening April 1, the Center will offer help with resume writing, interview coaching, power networking and job retention skills.

Governor Abercrombie was there to present a proclamation and lend his support.

Governor Neil Abercrombie and his wife, Nancie Caraway, attended with enthusiastic support. In volunteering her services, Dr. Caraway said: “We get so much more than we give. We have an obligation to throw out lifelines to these women, suiting and supporting them. Sign me up!”

Nancie Caraway, left, and Kehaulani Coleman, YWCA Director of Economic Advancement, share a giggle.

Dress for Success is an ideal place to donate all your career clothing when you’re ready to part with it. Although they have racks and racks of nice clothing, they always need more. I was told they are constantly short of plus-size clothing.

The shoes, which used to be hard to find in boxes, are now visible on racks.

This terrific suit awaits a lucky lady who will walk out of Dress for Success with her head held high.

I used to think it was difficult to find a place to park on Richards Street to take my donations. However, you can just pull up directly in front of the YWCA and run in quickly without a problem. So when you have suits, dresses and jackets to donate, remember Dress for Success and all that it does for the women of  Honolulu.

For more information, call 695-2603 or email

– Paula Rath

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March 25th, 2013 at 1:58 pm

What an important endeavor. It warms my heart to see resources that effectively enable these women to integrate into the community and to create a life for themselves. Thanks for increasing public awareness about this kind of wonderful program Paula.

March 26th, 2013 at 4:06 am

Yes, and their programs are growing to include more job counseling and work on self-esteem issues. They are doing great work!

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