By Chloe Klingman
On February 1st, 2022, Dress for Success, located at 701 Tillery St A-5, Austin, TX, was ransacked and raided by vandals searching for bus passes. Whenever Teal Garth, communications manager, arrived to work that morning she found the clothing packages strewn across the hallway.
Dress for Success Austin is a non-profit that empowers women+ to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire, and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. Since 2003, Dress for Success Austin has served over 17,000 women+ in Central Texas through referrals from 100+ non-profit and government agencies. Through their seven active career development programs, they provide women with the resources, tools and support they need to not only secure gainful, fulfilling employment, but to continue growing personally and professionally long after their last appointment. From providing clothing packages to women in need to mentoring women on resumes and interviews, this non-profit organization goes above and beyond to help women in need.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Dress for Success offered services that were strictly in person. They were forced to adapt with the times and transition to virtual appointments and began leaving clothing packages in a cabinet in the hallway outside of the office to ensure a contactless delivery. Unfortunately, this left them vulnerable to malice.
As one of the first ones to arrive, Teal immediately noticed that something was wrong. “Someone got into the building and rifled through all the clothing packages and left clothes strewn all over the hallway” Teal Garth said. “They took all the wallets inside of the purses too”.
This isn’t the first time that burglars have affected Dress for Success.
In October Candy Cantrell, director of volunteer engagement, was the first on the scene to realize something terrible had happened. “I walked in, and everything was kind of disheveled and thrown around and at first I thought ‘oh my gosh they left this place a mess’ and as I started looking around, I noticed things were really out of place. All the doors were open, drawers were left open, and stuff was strewn about. Stuff was everywhere. I realized that somebody had broken in”.
Most of the clothing and supplies that Dress for Success offers are donated items. The perpetrator took over $1,000 in computers, iPads, and designer handbags. “It was so scary and really heartbreaking because we are a non-profit and we don’t have a big budget. We are just trying to help women and for someone to steal from us is just… extra evil” Candy said in an interview.
With two major incidents in such a short time frame to the organization, they took a big hit. “We had just kind of gotten cleaned up and back to normal from the first incident and we had so many clothing packages out for women. To see that someone had gone through them again and made such a big mess of them. They were really just looking for bus passes, which we give for free.” Candy said.
Many women have benefitted from the organization’s outreach. One, Micah Randall, Dress for Success client, had this to say, “This organization truly does so much for the community, they provided me with an abundance of resources at a time when I needed it the most and that’s something that I won’t ever forget. This is not a corporation or a business that is seeking a profit, it is a group of women who are looking to empower others and to see people take advantage of that or wish ill will on them was absolutely heartbreaking”.
Since these two incidents, Dress for Success has expanded security measures to help keep their facility safe. For example, they have installed security cameras and padlock-protected lockers for their clothing package pickup areas.
To this day, the investigation is still ongoing, and no arrests have been made.