When the rent on former marine Daniel Sanchez’ apartment in Anaheim increased, he could no longer afford to live there. This forced him to move with his wife and three daughters to his mother’s house.
Sanchez, 26, decided to quit his construction job at the time to search for another after not receiving a viable income or enough hours. In the ensuing job search, his prospects still didn’t align.
“Everything was spiraling downhill,” Sanchez said.
When his uncle told him about Working Wardrobes, options started to open up. The Orange County nonprofit organization helps men, women, veterans and young adults struggling with difficult setbacks such as substance abuse, domestic violence and homelessness by providing assistance with resume building and career development.
“They welcomed me with open arms, and they just started referring me to a whole bunch of different places,” Sanchez said.
He also appreciated his experience with Working Wardrobes, especially praising one of its classes called Power Up. Sanchez said the class helped him with his job search and prepared him for interviews. The organization also helped him partially recover from his post-traumatic stress disorder which he was diagnosed with following his return from Afghanistan in 2014.
Working Wardrobes connected Sanchez with his current job at APRIS, a fire, water and trauma scene cleanup company, and allowed him to get his family their own place again.
The organization started in 1991 when its founder Jerri Rosen held a clothing drive with some friends. Seeing how much they had collected, Rosen hosted an event called “A Woman’s Day of Self-Esteem” where she recruited seven women from domestic abuse centers and provided them with makeovers, helping them look professional and bringing them one step closer to obtaining a career.
Volunteer and special events coordinator Khinsey Vong for Working Wardrobes said workshops held by the organization are taught by volunteers who come from companies like Disney, Plaza Bank and Boeing.
Outside of career development, the organization provides accommodations like free clothing and grocery gift cards for those in need.
Vong was first introduced to Working Wardrobes two years ago. Her sister Ashley had just transitioned out of the military and was applying for unemployment when she was approached by a Working Wardrobes outreach specialist at the Employment Development Department office. Vong’s sister soon went in for career and wardrobe assistance.
Her sister would always relay information about the organization to Vong, sparking her curiosity each time, which peaked when her sister brought home two suits given by the organization for completing her training. A year after her sister’s initial encounter with Working Wardrobes, Vong decided to start volunteering.
At the end of their training, all recipients receive a free suit, sparing them another expense to worry about.
All workplace attire is donated through events like clothing drives – the most recent of which was held by Titan Public Relations – which ended Nov. 3. Working Wardrobes received 410 pieces of clothing from the CSUF community from donations collected at the Titan Student Union.
Titan Public Relations also reached out to the Marriott Hotel and Inc Real Estate Corporation to request clothing donations for Working Wardrobes, said Sam Panganiban, account executive for Titan PR. Along with clothing drives, Working Wardrobes has a donation center in Irvine open six days a week where people can drop off their professional and casual clothing.
Vong noticed the impact the organization has on its clients and loves seeing the transformation its services often provide.
“A lot of times, they feel like they are more empowered. They feel more confident that there’s someone here to help them, and they’re not alone,” Vong said.