Amber Valentine shows off her new job interview suit at Dress for Success San Diego. Coastal residents interested in making tax-deductible donations of women’s suits and accessories to women re-entering the workforce can do so at Solana Beach City Hall and Office Team in Carlsbad. Courtesy photo

Suit drive helps job seekers in need

SOLANA BEACH —Savvy job seekers know there’s never a second chance to make a first impression. 

This economy makes it especially difficult to show up for an interview these days looking like a million dollars.

The city of Solana Beach is helping by partnering with Robert Half International, and the nonprofit Dress for Success San Diego, as part of a national suit drive underway through Aug. 24.

City Hall will be collecting donated, tax-deductible women’s interview-appropriate suits, separates, shoes and accessories to benefit women re-entering the workforce.

“We have done this for three years with great participation, not only from city employees, but city wide,” City Clerk Angela Ivey explained. “The first year only employees participated, and it was great. The second year we got a flood from the public, and more than tripled donations from the previous year.”

Paul Kartzke is branch manager of Office Team and Accountemps in Carlsbad, subsidiaries of Robert Half International, and has been involved in the drive from the beginning in 2002.

“Initially, we highlighted five offices on the West Coast and brought in more than 500 women’s suits and 1,100 pieces of interview clothing,” he recalled. “It was so successful that we decided to expand to the entire United States and Canada.”

Kartzke explained that Robert Half International also has offices in Rancho Bernardo, La Jolla and downtown San Diego that are working with their clients to generate donations.

“The city of Solana Beach has taken it to another level by not only involving employees, but the entire community, which is fantastic,” he added.

Kartzke gave kudos to his employees who have reached out to each of their clients and, like him, will be picking up donations personally on the final day.

“I’ve been in this office for four years and participation by so many businesses makes everyone feel good,” he said.

Sylvia McKinley is founder of Dress for Success San Diego which has a boutique at 1122 Broadway, Suite 200, in San Diego. “The quantity of the professional clothing and accessories, along with funding donated through the annual suit drive hosted by Robert Half International has increased over the years,” she said. “We are grateful to our friends in North County who have supported our clients’ transition to economic self-sufficiency by organizing suit and accessory drives, sponsoring fundraising events, volunteering as speakers in our job readiness curriculum, joining our board of directors and participating in other hands-on activities.”

Lettice (last name withheld) became a participant through a referral from another nonprofit after losing her public relations job and being unemployed for nearly a year.

“I was not looking for a hand out and I was sensitive about how I might be treated,” she remembered. “But all of my concerns disappeared when I arrived at the Dress for Success San Diego facility where I was greeted warmly, treated respectfully and embraced as an ‘equal.’”

Lettice was outfitted with what she described as “a beautiful designer suit and accessories.”

“I succeeded in my job interview, feel good about my new job and feel blessed that God has structured a plan for me,” she added. “For anyone who is nervous or unsure about Dress for Success San Diego I would say: ‘The experience will exceed your expectations. They will make sure you receive exactly what you need and you will leave happy.’”

Drop-offs can be made at Solana Beach City Hall during regular business hours (Monday through Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and alternate Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) until 5:30 p.m., Aug. 23.

Donations can also be made at Office Team, 5868 Owens Ave., Suite 100, Carlsbad near Palomar Airport. For more information about Dress for Success San Diego, call (619) 281-3773 or visit