For women leaving unsafe homes, it’s nearly impossible to imagine everything you will need for the future. When Joanna arrived at a local women’s shelter, she had nothing but the clothes she was wearing. “The leaving was very abrupt,” Joanna said. “As part of my leaving, I had to leave everything behind.” That included any clothes she may have worn to job interviews or work.

This situation is all too familiar for women across Southern Nevada, especially as they complete back-to-work programs and prepare to re-enter the workforce. The United Way of Southern Nevada’s Women’s Leadership Council is filling this important need through the annual Women’s Fall Suit Drive. Held each year on the first Friday of November, the Suit Drive collects thousands of professional items for women like Joanna receiving training and resources through agencies that help women find jobs and start on the path to a career. Suits, dresses, pants, tops and accessories are needed as WLC members and volunteers create outfits to distribute to eight local organizations assisting women.

“It’s amazing to see the impact the Suit Drive has created in the community over the past 10 years and how many thousands of lives have been changed,” said Holly Lloyd, chair of the volunteerism committee. “Our Suit Drive is an incredible example of how our members rally the support of the entire community for those who need it most.”

In celebration of United Way’s 60th anniversary, over 60 volunteers and donors came together in 2017 to collect professional clothing and build outfits for women in back-to-work programs at Catholic Charities, Goodwill Career Connections, S.A.F.E. House, SafeNest, The Shade Tree, Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority ROSS Program, Women’s Development Center and the Work Opportunities Readiness Center of HELP of Southern Nevada. At the end of the day, over 10,000 items had been collected and matched into a record 1,694 outfits for women across the valley.

The Suit Drive is a one-day event to give back to the community, but it is one of the many programs United Way of Southern Nevada supports as part of its Community-Based Agenda, helping children and families from cradle-to-career. One main focus area of the Community-Based Agenda is workforce support, as United Way aims to increase the number of adults working full- or part-time in Clark County. By providing the necessary support for these adults, they can create a stable home life for their families and begin to build pathways out of poverty and into future success.

Joanna saw the effect this support had on her life shortly after getting help. After arriving at the shelter, she was applying for jobs and going to interviews wearing her new outfit from the Suit Drive, enjoying a new outlook on life. “It inspires me and motivates me,” she said. “It’s not just clothes … it feels like people care.”