Racheal Balke, a Lincoln University softball team member and marketing major, heard about Dreams to Reality through Lincoln’s career services where she was then submitted into the referral process.
“I feel like I’m on an episode of ‘What Not to Wear,’” Racheal mentioned to her Dreams To Reality volunteer stylist, Gerrie Madsen, as they laughed.
“It really is such a joy to do this,” Gerrie commented.
After nearly an hour and a half of working with Gerrie on her new wardrobe in December, Racheal walked out with more than 20 items including shirts, pants, undergarments, shoes and accessories that not only reflect the job she will be applying for, but her personality as well.
“I would describe it as a good opportunity and I’m glad that they’re here to help because I don’t know much about any of this stuff, so I appreciate the help,” Racheal said.
Supporting women in the first steps of a future career, Dreams to Reality has been preparing those in need from head to toe and everything in between. Dreams to Reality is a not-for-profit organization that helps women obtain appropriate interview and work attire when they may be at a disadvantage in purchasing such items.
The program began in 2000 when two women who worked for the state realized there were a number of women who didn’t have clothing for an interview.
“They were switching their clothes in the bathroom in order to be able to conduct an interview,” said Lorie Smith, Dreams to Reality executive director.
Since then the organization has formed into an entire team of volunteers dedicated to providing donated interview attire and more than a weeks worth of work clothes to women through their referral program.
“I think to many we’re a huge help and not only are we giving and providing them clothes for their interviews or work, but I believe that we are contributing to them walking out of here with a higher self-esteem and they feel better about themselves,” said Veronica Hernandez, current Dreams to Reality president. “That to me is the most empowering part of this program.”
Dreams to Reality is also a United Way agency, which receives grants to purchase non-donated items such as brand new bras, socks, steel-toed boots, non-skid shoes and bags of hygiene items, and currently only has one paid employee with the rest of the store’s employees working as volunteers to ensure that 100 percent of their donation and grant proceeds go toward helping their clients.
However, the program has also expanded to a new building at 500 Jefferson St. to accommodate a boutique retail portion of the program, which also helps raise funds for the organization by selling high-end clothing at reasonable prices.
“For me, I’m very passionate about our retail here because when you make a purchase with us, it goes back to help clients,” said Gara Loskill, former Dreams to Reality president. “And we live in a culture right now where clothing is the No. 3 polluter in this world and people don’t wear their clothes long enough and they don’t always donate them out so that somebody can get the good that’s still left in an item of clothing.
“So when you donate to us we’re helping the environment, we’re helping people who need clothing, we’re helping people have another chance at having another outfit, and there’s just so much good that comes from our retail space.”
Clothing donations are always in need to keep the boutique running. Plus sizes and sizes 0-4 are in highest demand, but any size of clothing will be accepted.
“We only take bras that have the tags on them, otherwise we purchase the bras and we take cash donations to purchase them,” Gara said. “So we don’t take used undergarments, we don’t take any nightwear and we’re selective also if it’s gymwear. … Otherwise we take it all, and if we don’t use it for clients we sell it … or we pass it on to another United Way agency.”
Dreams to Reality also hosts a few fundraisers throughout the year including an “uplift” fundraiser during Women’s History Month in March to raise money to purchase new bras and an annual woman themed fundraiser in June, such as the “Dream Believer Fundraiser” that gathered profits from Scene One Theatre’s headlining play “Relative Strangers” held last year. Women can also treat themselves to something nice at the organization’s boutique during their end of clearance sale, which is held on the first Saturday in March.
The program at Dreams to Reality is designed for women 18 and up who are referred to the program through one of their various partner agencies including schools, employers and/or employment board members.
However, local businesses are also welcome to contact them at any time if they have employees who may need some assistance and women can call to inquire about the program.
“We want other businesses (to know) that we’re here to help them, that if they struggle with bringing people in whether it be a uniform or dressy or casual clothing that they can reach out to us and have that relationship with us so that we are able to help their employees,” Veronica said. “And for the community that needs our help.
Whether it be girls when they’re 18 that are moving out or there are a lot of homeless people here now in Jeff City and it keeps growing, letting them know that we’re here to help them and that they can reach out to somebody whether it’s somebody they know or some other organization that they’re working with to get back on their feet,” she added.
For more information about the program and how to donate, visit the Dreams to Reality website at www.dreamstoreality-jc.org or call 573-681-9675. Office and business hours are 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 4-6 p.m. Wednesday and 8 a.m.-noon the first and third Saturday each month.