It’s been two years since the four-alarm fire that destroyed the Working Wardrobes headquarters. Since then, Working Wardrobes has grown and experienced immense change, but has never wavered from the mission of serving clients and the community. In order to continue moving forward, several Working Wardrobes team members reflect on the fire, and what has been accomplished since then.
Bonni Pomush, Working Wardrobes CEO
Two years ago, Working Wardrobes literally went up in smoke. Over a hundred of our county’s bravest responded to the four-alarm fire. Yet, even while they were still extinguishing the flames, the Working Wardrobes Board and staff jumped into action to ensure that the work to rebuild careers would continue. Chief Program Officer Mary Ann Profeta and her husband Randy Profeta immediately offered their bike shop, Trail’s End, to house the new “mission control center” of Working Wardrobes. Founder Jerri Rosen led the team to keep the mission in action going strong.
What happened next seemed like a miracle, but it was more like a warm embrace from the entire community. Nicole Suydam, CEO of Goodwill Orange County, heard the news and donated warehouse space to Working Wardrobes on behalf of Goodwill. Then, while in dismay at the loss of countless assets, our community members, corporate partners, and donors from every walk of life rallied. Pacific Life, Orange County Community Foundation, and every individual donor made rebuilding Working Wardrobes a reality. The community came out in droves with donations of clean clothes, filling the donated space in record time. Because of your donations, a mere five months after the fire, Jerri was able to lease two new spaces, separating our Success Center from our Donation Center.
Over the months to follow, Working Wardrobes continued to experience more miracles and embraces. The work of rebuilding careers and lives takes true partnership, generosity, and a shared interest in serving our communities. On behalf of Working Wardrobes and the clients we serve, thank you. We are deeply grateful to everyone who donated time, talent, and treasure to help us rebuild so that we can continue helping individuals rebuild their careers.
Derek Mendes, VetNet Job Developer
After the fire, I helped keep our VetNet program active and spread the word that Working Wardrobes did not have a permanent residence. We anticipated struggling after the fire, but with the exception of some training, we did not slow down. Since the fire, Working Wardrobes has grown to incorporate new programs, has built the staff and their collective knowledge, and set new exciting expectations and goals for the future. When I think about the future of Working Wardrobes, I am most excited about the new direction and what we can accomplish with a new, energetic CEO at the helm.
Mary Ann Profeta, Chief Program Director
These last few years since the fire and onset of the COVID-19 pandemic have been years of transition. No one was spared from this difficult period, including Working Wardrobes, but we continue to build on the many lessons that we learned in 2020. We became more flexible, and never wavered in our dedication to overcome barriers.
This last year was a record year. Through four impactful programs, we served 3,789 clients. We served adults, seniors, youth, and the justice-involved. We served Veterans, their spouses, and their families. With the hard work of our staff and volunteers, those programs provided 14,175 individual services.
Since the fire, we expanded our services and welcomed more and more clients back to our “still new” Career Success Center. We serviced close to a hundred transitioning Marines at our Camp Pendleton event in October. We were once again able to welcome donors to our record-breaking Outdoor Gala last Fall.
I want to thank staff, volunteers, donors, and clients for helping us to successfully rebuild. We are here to continue serving you all.
About Working Wardrobes
Working Wardrobes is Orange County’s foremost workforce readiness nonprofit, providing the tools to at-risk men, women, young adults, and Veterans so they can achieve the dignity of work. Founded in 1990 by Jerri Rosen, Working Wardrobes has been serving Southern California for over 30 years by providing assessments, job training, career placement, and wardrobe services to almost 115,000 clients to overcome barriers to employment and achieve the Power of a Paycheck™. For more information, please visit www.workingwardrobes.org.