Read the inspiring stories of clients that Dress for Success San Antonio and Career Gear San Antonio have been able to help.
Click any name to view the client's story.
At the age of five, Bianca was abandoned by her mother, leaving her in the care of her abusive alcoholic father and forcing her to be responsible for the housework. From that early age, she was robbed her of her childhood and beaten regularly. To protect herself, she would black out and she frequently missed school due to her injuries. After revealing her story to school officials when she was ten, Bianca was placed in her aunt's loving, stable home. Six years later her aunt lost her battle with cancer and Bianca found herself moved to another abusive environment. At 17, she struck out on her own.
The severe emotional, physical, and sexual abuses Bianca suffered caused her to have mental health challenges, a distorted view of the world and her self-worth, and left her vulnerable to further abuse and exploitation. At 19, she had the first of her two children; her second came a year later. Instability in her life continued - multiple moves, homelessness for seven years, no support from family or friends, and a barrage of abusive men just like her father.
Bianca was incarcerated for 10 months and lost her children. Little did she know that while in the Bexar County Jail her life would take a turn for the better. As a detainee, she attended a workforce development class taught by the CEO of Dress for Success San Antonio. Bianca credits this class for helping to change her thinking and her future. Bianca says, "Attending the class from Dress for Success San Antonio woke me up."
Looking back over her life, Bianca wants to cry - tears of sadness and tears of joy. She is fortunate because through it all she never used drugs or alcohol as an escape from the nightmare. She realizes that her addiction was manifested by the abusive men she chose because she was taught that was all she deserved.
Today, Bianca is one of our clients in transition. She is on probation and is seeking employment. She has the passion and skills needed to work in the retail visual merchandising industry. You can find Bianca at Dress for Success, working every day in the Career Center as she pursues a retail position.
Since attending that first Dress for Success San Antonio class, Bianca's dreams have been transformed. She aims to gain as much experience in retail as possible and one day own a spa.Her faith is also very important to her and she would like to minister.
Brandy is a talented pianist who began playing at age 4. She was also a victim of domestic violence who became homeless and unemployed after her batterer crushed her hands with an aluminum bat. Because of the extensive injuries, she was told she might never play again. Since going through the Dress for Success® of San Antonio program, Brandy has healed in body and spirit. Our programs helped her regain the courage and perseverance needed in order to beat the odds and renew her excitement for music. Today, Brandy is once again playing and teaching piano and she serves as the Client Representative on our Board of Directors.
Linda - At Dress for Success® San Antonio, we have shared Linda’s journey since 2011. She was gratified to find a place where she was treated respectfully, empathetically and professionally– not like, according to Linda, “some loser homeless person.” Here, she is family. Linda had left a successful career in Houston to move with her family to San Antonio, where finding steady employment proved difficult because of the downturn in the economy. Due to employer instability, Linda lost her job and in time was unable to pay rent. As a result, she moved in with her children, moving from one home to another until the night she was given an ultimatum and asked to leave.
That night was cold and she was scared. For the first time in her life, Linda was literally without a roof over her head, and spent her first night in a homeless shelter.
Devoutly religious, Linda is comforted by her faith and says, “God had to take everything away from me to get my attention.” That faith supported her through a major career change into the culinary arts, including study at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America and an externship at the famed Avalon Grille on Catalina Island in California. While injuries precluded her from graduating on time, she has just one semester remaining. In the interim, she follows her culinary pursuits in hospital and commercial settings.
Pam - The expansion of Dress for Success® San Antonio's programs has helped Pam. When she was pregnant with twins and first came to Dress for Success® San Antonio in 2008, our programs focused on providing interview clothing. In 2013, after her children were removed from her home by CPS, she discovered the wealth of programs now available. She returned to Dress for Success® San Antonio to participate in the Going Places Network by Walmart (our intense job readiness program) because she was ready "to do things right."
Growing up with an alcoholic single parent forced Pam to raise her younger brother and sister, while holding down two jobs and attending school. These circumstances influenced Pam's relationships, and while she is not a substance abuser herself, she developed a pattern of pursuing partners with substance abuse issues. After years of these relationships, she was supporting 5 children with no help from any of their dads.
Pam completed Dress for Success® San Antonio's program with perfect attendance, significantly more confidence and encouraged to pursue the work she is "capable of and deserves." She is completing the CPS program, and hopes to reunite with her children in the near future.
Two years ago, Violet found herself in a state of hopelessness, frustration and despair resulting from what she simply calls her “negative choices.” She had no hope, no home and no sense of life worth living.
She went from the street to the homeless shelter, where she found support and guidance including a referral to Dress for Success San Antonio, whom she credits with helping turn her life around.
According to Violet, “I was skeptical about what they wanted in return – free help? Is that possible? Before you know it, they reviewed my resume, practiced interviewing, directed me to on-line education resources and fitted me in an awesome suit. It was as if I was in a boutique that offered self-affirmation and confidence, and that was only the beginning.
I am now a proud member of the Professional Women’s Group, where I am able to continuously interact and network with other inspiring women who have been in my shoes, are able to relate, and are living out their dreams.
Today I am a self-sufficient woman who has been guided by many angels. I am continuing my education. I have my own place which I can call home; I have my own vehicle. I have been employed for two years and recently received a promotion. Can you believe that? I never knew that dreams came true and that miracles exist, but today I am living it!!”
The first thing she said when she came to Dress for Success was, "I am success in the making." She has demonstrated this in every encounter since.
Ilevia is one of nine children, raised in Temple, TX. The household was unstable, especially after her mother suffered an aneurism when Ilevia was 11 and ultimately spent the next 20 years in a nursing home. Various adult relatives flowed through, all claiming the right to control the kids. What she calls "negative influences" translated to emotional, physical and sexual abuse, leading her to move to California when she was 15. She lived with the family of her mother's ex-husband, but it remains unclear if he is her father or stepfather. The environment there, too, was difficult. Her stepmother introduced her to drugs, and emotional support was in short supply.
What followed, beginning at age 17, was a succession of moves around the country, including several back and forth to Temple, staying with various relatives, working from time to time, dabbling in drugs and eventual homelessness. But, still her inner strength held. She attained her GED and an Associates Degree, treasured the positive messages from the elders with whom she worked, and had a significant religious epiphany followed by several reinforcing experiences.
Ilevia began to realize that she was meant to do something meaningful in her life, and began to understand this was her choice to make. She first came to San Antonio in 2010 and located here permanently in 2013. In April 2014 she came to Dress for Success San Antonio, enrolled in the Going Places Network by Walmart, our intense job readiness program, and found the confidence again "to go forward and not settle." She is now exploring employment opportunities with a local school district.
Alma recognizes Dress for Success San Antonio as a catalyst for her success, where she "became confident and capable of public speaking, competent and smart enough to have a job."
Born in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, to violent substance abusing parents, Alma's youth was a battle for survival. Despite inflicting mental and physical pain, her parents, whose education did not extend beyond elementary school, still managed to instill in their children the importance of education.
In 1996, Alma's life in the shadows began. Rather than the vacation in San Antonio she was expecting, she learned she would not return to the only home she had known, but would stay, undocumented, in the United States. The upside was she was never again beaten by her mother.
Alma learned English in less than a year, graduated from South San High School in three, despite being pregnant. She married Marco four months before graduation and gave birth to Karla shortly after. Insightful enough to understand the cycle of abuse, Alma feared she might perpetuate it on her child but consciously chose instead to be a role model through education.
Texas law allowed in-state college tuition for undocumented students. Alma loved college, but remained terrified about immigration authorities seizing and deporting her. She persevered and achieved her first degree in 2008 and an Associate Degree in Nursing in 2009. En route to these successes, she bore her second child and then her third. To deal with the extra stress, Alma enrolled in parenting classes to learn positive coping skills; her husband was, and is, encouraging and supportive always.
More challenges ensued. Despite good grades and clear passion, she was denied entry to a Bachelor-level nursing program, because she could not provide proof of work eligibility. After a few tears, brief erosion of self-esteem, and again full support from Marco, Alma enrolled in Texas A&M San Antonio. In 2012, she graduated with honors with an Education (Science Concentration) degree.
Three months later, Alma gained legal status and is now teaching science full-time to elementary school children. She remains grateful to her parents for their emphasis on education. Alma represented San Antonio during the 2013 Dress for Success Professional Women's Group Success Summit. Alma recognizes Dress for Success San Antonio as a catalyst for her success, where she "became confident and capable of public speaking, competent and smart enough to have a job." We recognize her as the role model she strived so hard to become, to her children and to her colleagues. She is in the shadows no more.
According to Venus, "No one believed in me except Dress for Success San Antonio. They saw the woman I was always meant to be, not how the world had labeled me. I am so grateful to this incredible organization for their love, encouragement, and life-transforming programs. Thank you!"
At the tender age of 16, Venus J. found herself homeless -sleeping wherever she could find a bed, a blanket, or a place on the floor. With literally no resources, she turned to prostitution and burglary for survival, all the while drugging to numb the pain.
At age 19, she had her first child, and they lived together on the streets of San Antonio. She was arrested many times for theft, DWI, and possession.
After 14 years on the streets, during her last incarceration, she gave her life to Christ. She was still homeless when she got out of jail for the last time but decided that she wanted to turn her life around and be a role model for her two children. She found a job, started school at a local community college, and came to Dress for Success San Antonio when she needed clothing for her internship in Mortuary Science.
Venus graduated from Texas A&M University San Antonio 2014 and is a funeral director for a national company. She married a wonderful man who is the director of the men's fellowship group at her church and they recently purchased their first home.
Inez came to Dress for Success® San Antonio to enroll in our Financial Literacy class. "Dress for Success® San Antonio . . . helped me have a new life, and my self-esteem is no longer down." Inez says. [They] "helped me understand that what happened to me was not my fault. . . . I am taking classes, setting goals, learning to look for a job and building myself up. I am learning how to become a better woman."
A remarkable woman, Inez survived an upbringing where her mother and brother beat her and sold her; she started using alcohol to dull the pain when she was only 8 years old. After leaving home, her experiences led her to subsequent abusive relationships and continued drinking. She has now been sober since 2013.
Thanks to Dress for Success® San Antonio, Inez is moving forward and is currently a student of Faith Walking and will proceed to a Master degree in chaplaincy. She loves to learn new things and to help people. She continues to participate in all Dress for Success® San Antonio training programs.
Patty came to San Antonio in late June of 2014, to be close to her son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren who are her "passion." She left the city of Amarillo, the site of many challenges, divorce from an abusive husband and loss of her 40-year career as a hairstylist among them.
She developed acute neuropathy and arthritis in her legs and hands, rendering it impossible for her to do the work she loved. She tried adjusting her hours by teaching or attending school herself but was too ill. Then she had an accident where she broke her neck, and spent the next several years attempting to rehabilitate from both the injury and the illness.
Patty's sister became ill as well, and Patty became her full-time caretaker until the sister's death last year. With her San Antonio based family as incentive, she made the move, coupled with fierce desire to move forward in her career and her life, currently pursuing a diploma in Medical Office with Special Billing. She credits Dress for Success San Antonio in helping her do both.
She came initially with a friend, for services such as resume building, interview training and professional dressing., which she received. But, Patty says she is "leaving with so much more. She recognizes as even more important the classes she attends for self-improvement and the staff that exhibits camaraderie and congeniality. "I walked into a place where everyone loves me."
Roger, a native Texan, credits Career Gear San Antonio for believing in him and giving him a second chance after getting into “a lot of trouble and going away for a few years.” Originally a trainee with AARP, it didn’t take long for the staff at Dress for Success San Antonio to realize Roger would make a great employee. On staff since February 2015, Roger has worked in building maintenance, landscaping, as a handyman, and now has been trained to suit clients in our men’s program, optimizing his creative flair. Always humble and good-natured, we are very fortunate to have a dedicated staff member who brings humor, compassion, and understanding to the position.
Travis' story: "I have been battling with the disease of Alcoholism for seven years, and have had great highs and lows. This last debauch left me at my worst, unemployed and with no place to go. The grasps of the imprisonment of Alcoholism is a feeling of impending doom and the most miserable feeling inside of utter failure. In this regards, my mental capacity was left in dismay with the only option to try one more time or to give up completely. The withdrawals and feelings of loneliness superseded any optimism still left in my foggy brain. I come from a great family and raised with a great moral fiber, but many of the things that cross the mind during the grasps of addiction are unfathomable. It is an internal battle, which side to feed and which end to create.
"It was with the help of Haven for Hope and Career Gear that gave me the key to unlock myself from a self-imposed prison. These are hundreds of people, men and women, that have unconditional love and care for people of indigence. They were able to show their provide me with every tool imaginable to recreate my life and help erect a beautiful solid foundation for the rest of my life. Career Gear and their resources helped to prove to me that there is still true philanthropy left in the world, and that their clients success is the number priority over anything. My aspirations for the future come alive with the help and guide of Career Gear, and I plan to give back to organizations like this in the future. I Strongly advise anyone with issues that may be a hindrance to your future to see what Career Gear offers. They were a pivotal part of my recovery and help me get back to a productive member of society."
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"I am thankful that Career Gear San Antonio is here to assist me in getting back on my feet, and on my way to a successful life...”
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Tamara (Tammy) was born in a less than stable household, where drugs and alcohol played a part. When Tammy was 11, her parents divorced. It rocked the only world she knew to be normal. She began her own pattern of rebellion, culminating in being expelled from 8th grade for behavioral issues. Although she returned to school, she continued to act out and became pregnant at 16. The pregnancy was difficult, keeping her bedridden for seven months and forcing her to drop out of school. She married a man who abused both drugs and her, and she had three children by age 21. When the youngest was six months, she asked her husband to leave, and she has been a single mother since.
The year 2008 was notable. Tammy lost her children to CPS – but it was the catalyst she needed. She conceded her own abuse of substances, asked for help, and joined Alcoholics Anonymous. It was through AA that she first heard about Dress for Success. The subsequent deaths of her parents led to relapse, but she is now clean and sober and sponsors four other individuals in their sobriety. Her children were returned to her care in 2011, and she has been working in accounting services for several years.
In January 2014, Tammy began to seek a new career direction, dedicated to helping others as others helped her. She remembered Dress for Success San Antonio and thought a new outfit could help with a “fresh start,” but she discovered so much more. She enrolled in the Going Places Network by Walmart, Dress for Success’s intense job-readiness program, which began only two days later. She graduated and is now armed with clear focus and increased confidence. She “discovered [she] really has compassion” and that the class was about “finding where you really belong – watching the miracles happen.”
Santos' story: "I am a survivor of drug abuse which lead to be being homeless. I used to be a very troubled and lost individual. The part of my life where I had no coping skills on how to deal with the horrible deaths of four cousins only lead me to be lost, and turn to drugs. My addiction took me to place no human being should ever go. I was very unsociable. I didn’t care about family or friends. That lead me to a 10 year sentence in prison which I did 9 calendar years of my life. Unfortunately prison only made me worse. I became more mean and aggressive. I came home even more lost if life and still didn’t know how to cope with life, so I turned right back to drugs. I was worse. I would go weekdays without food. I was so tired and living my life like that.
"I reached out for help and found Stacy from the Haven for Hope. Stacy took me to lifetime recovery where I was taught coping skills and I learned new thinking processes. I learned about boundaries and the twelve step program. I have become more aware of how to deal with the disease we call addiction. I am more happy and relieved person. I am glad Dress for Success San Antonio has such a respectful staff who understand that life can be rough at times. They are a real blessing and I thank God for them."
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