WEE Boutique ready for Monday opening

Nov. 14, 2013 @ 08:49 PM

Six racks with coordinated outfits of different blouses, skirts, pants and blazers are the centerpiece of the Franklin-Vance-Warren Opportunity’s new boutique, located at 155 W. Andrews Ave., for unemployed or underemployed women.

The Women’s Economic Equity Boutique, which is set to open officially on Monday, will carry on the former WEE program that ran for more than seven years and helped 300 women but lost its funding in June.

“We are really grateful for the opportunity we had,” said Jennifer Gregory, director of family resources and special projects at FVW Opportunity. “But we decided, we can’t let this project just go quietly in the night.”

The WEE council of seven women, including Gregory, met nearly a year ago and agreed to start the boutique that is funded completely through donations.

When the council members began preparing, they needed to make significant renovations to transform the neglected space into a lively boutique with clothes and accessories lining the walls.

“It was a massive undertaking by a lot of dedicated people,” Gregory said.

The original program offered educational assistance and support services to disadvantaged women pursuing careers in healthcare.

The updated WEE project provides unemployed, underemployed or dislocated women from the four-county area with a six-week employability skills class, career coaching and support services.

Gregory said once the participants graduate, they are supplied with an interview outfit. After the women secure a job, they can pick out a week’s worth of career outfits to establish a foundation for their new wardrobe.

The boutique has professional women’s outfits, such as slacks and dresses, in all sizes, as well as shoes, purses and jewelry.

Vance County Department of Social Services is a partner in development of the WEE Boutique and provides a program very similar to the WEE Project.

Steps to Self Sufficiency, or STEPS, is made possible through a partnership between Social Services, Vance-Granville Community College and the Henderson-Vance Chamber of Commerce.

Sherri Alston, Steps to Self Sufficiency program instructor, said her class teaches interviewing skills and resume writing tips, in addition to effective job searching skills.

But, she said it can be just as important for job applicants to wear the proper clothes.

“The better they feel about themselves, the better they will do at the interview,” Alston said.

Alston said the boutique is not a typical thrift store because it’s not open to the public and they don’t accept casual attire, like jeans and T-shirts.

Alston and Tanya Weary, VGCC Small Business Center director, sorted through most of the donations and put together matching outfits.

Weary said she was impressed with the quality of the donations, some of which still had price tags or had not been worn.

“There is a lot of name brand stuff in here,” Weary said. “I think these women will have a nice selection to choose from.”

 

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.