A clothing-based initiative at the Detroit Athletic Club (DAC) has gained momentum and seen substantial growth since its debut in May 2013.
The Detroit Athletic Club’s (DAC) Executive Clothing Drive, organized by the club’s Community Outreach Committee and benefitting participants in the Focus: HOPE career-training program, collects women’s and men’s professional business suits, blazers, blouses, shirts and tailored pants that program enrollees can wear to job fairs and interviews. Donations must be freshly cleaned and hung in dry-cleaning bags, and are dropped off at the DAC’s coat-check and front desks.
The now-annual event started on May 31 and ran through June 21 this year, and around 400 items were donated. “Each year the initiative has happened, we’ve seen double-digit increases in the amount of items donated,” says Assistant General Manager Charles Johnson.
The club promotes the initiative through its digital and print marketing avenues, and Johnson says members now look forward to the drive each year, despite a few bumps in the program’s infancy.
“In the first couple of years, we received many donations that were not business attire,” Johnson says. “The program was marketed and perceived as ‘spring cleaning of your closet,’ and members brought in all types of clothing that did not fit the mission of the initiative. We learned from those mistakes and have been able to tailor the marketing message along with a better understanding of the program it supports, and we now receive the appropriate items almost exclusively.”
DAC’s initiative is the only clothing-specific program that Focus: HOPE participates in, Johnson says; beyond the clothing drive, the nonprofit must partner with other organizations to purchase needed garments.
“As the DAC initiative has grown, we have become closer to being able to provide all of the garments necessary for Focus: HOPE’s program for the year,” Johnson says. “If we are able to increase the donations to a level that allows Focus: HOPE to use their funds towards other facets of their programs, I believe the DAC initiative will have matured into true success.”
The partnership has also yielded an additional unexpected benefit for both parties that will result in a new program offered through Focus: HOPE.
“In a casual conversation with the managers of Focus: HOPE about the organization’s mission and programs, a longtime DAC employee mentioned that in their previous line of work, they had provided basic job-hiring skills training to unemployed people,” Johnson explains. “From that conversation, a meeting was held with the management of Focus: HOPE and the DAC employee—and after a successful test run, a new element to the Focus: HOPE program has been added, through which the DAC employee will teach job-interviewing skills to those in the Focus: HOPE program.”