When Jo Ann* first made contact with SuitedNSuccess to donate her husband’s business suits, she couldn’t bring herself to follow through.
Jo Ann’s husband Larry had passed away unexpectedly. He was an avid golfer, a music-lover, an actuary working at NC Mutual, and a native Carolinian. He was an open-handed philanthropist and her husband of 29 years.
She wasn’t quite ready to let go.
So Jo Ann waited a few months and called back.
“Annette and Mark Taylor were wonderful to talk with,” Jo Ann says. “I was searching for a place that wouldn’t take a suit and toss it over in the corner, which would feel like they were tossing my loved one over in the corner. At SuitedNSuccess and StepUp—the way the donated clothing was received—it’s good to see it being treated with respect.”
Jo Ann’s donation was received by Mark Taylor, founder of SuitedNSuccess, a nonprofit organization that connects business attire with men who could make good use of a suit. Mark’s wife Annette helps with the organization’s outreach and community engagement, and the clientele who receive the suits are primarily men in a life transition—those reentering society after incarceration, addiction, or homelessness, hoping to start over.
The organization began in 2012, after Mark’s cousin came out of prison and was struggling to find a job without any interview clothes.
“I realized, in helping him, that there aren’t a lot of services for men,” Mark says. “I saw there was a need and I just wanted to help.”
So even though Mark works full time for an electronic medical records company and Annette woks full time in a congressional office, SuitedNSuccess has been slowly growing on the side as a volunteer effort. The organization is home-based, with drop-off sites at Snow White Cleaners and Amaka’s International Hair Salon, as well as a mobile operation wherein Mark drives to pick up clothing donations.
In the last year and a half, Mark has put about 120 men in free suits. 18 of those men are StepUp Durham participants, who received the suits during the 32-hour employment training week. (Women in StepUp receive suits through another nonprofit—Dress for Success.)
“When you’re going into a job interview, you’re already nervous about the interview, but if you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you feel confident,” Mark explains. “Anything would help, but my goal is to put an outfit together that they’re really happy with.”
Mark tells a success story of a client who he couldn’t meet in person, but Mark picked out the suit he anticipated would fit the man’s needs.
“After he picked it up from NC Works Raleigh, he called me back later and said, ‘You know my style! This looks great!’ That made me feel good to make someone happy and confident in what he is wearing,” Mark says.
And, of course, there are success stories on the “donor” side of the equation as well.
“It was heartwarming to donate to SuitedNSuccess,” Jo Ann says. “My husband Larry was always good about supporting various fundraisers. I went away [from donating] thinking I had done a good thing—that Larry had done a good thing. I tried to do what Larry would have done.”
Jo Ann takes some comfort in knowing that her husband’s legacy will enable others to apply for jobs and find success.
“A little of my husband lives on in a way,” Jo Ann says. “That means a lot to me.”
If you would like to donate to SuitedNSuccess, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 919-339-1082. You can also drop off donations at:
- Snow White Cleaners 3405 Hillsborough Rd
- Amaka’s International Hair1906 NC-54, Durham, NC 27713
Amy Spaulding Zimbelman is a Masters of Divinity student at Duke Divinity School and an intern at StepUp.