“It’s not just lip service – Royal Neighbors made a difference.” Regina Haddock, executive director of Dress for Success® Quad Cities (DFSQC), is a controlled bundle of energy and passion and a 2011 recipient of the Nation of NeighborsSM empowerment grant. “It’s so powerful to get that affirmation. You know you’re really passionate about what you’re doing. But to have someone hand you a check and say ‘we believe in it, too’ – that empowers you.”
Empowerment is the primary mission of Dress for Success, a global organization that strives to help women on their journey to financial freedom. They provide a network of employment-related support including professional attire, interviewing skills, resume consultation, and ongoing professional development. With more than 150 affiliates in 29 countries, the organization has served over one million women looking to better their circumstances through economic independence.
Having experienced her own challenges as a divorced mother of two – working full-time while finishing her education – Regina understands the importance of economic independence. She also recognizes the value of organizations that help women break the cycle of poverty, like Dress for Success. So, in 2010, she began to think about how she might bring them to the Quad Cities. She recalls, “I found myself asking, ‘Why not us? Why not here? Why not now?”
By the time Regina was awarded the Nation of Neighbors℠ grant, she’d already begun to implement her business plan, lining up agencies and referral partners, and developing programs to train other community organizations and her own volunteers.The grant helped fund a “safety net” to cover unexpected business expenses that might limit DFSQC’s ability to provide services. It was also used to create the Founder’s Discretionary Fund, for expenses like emergency child care, gas, cell phone minutes – often last-minute, short-term obstacles to a client’s getting or keeping her job.
Regina knew the impact early success has on securing the future. And Royal Neighbors was integral in helping DFSQC achieve it. “They funded us before we even had clients. No one was getting paid,” she recalls. “And then Royal Neighbors walked into one of our board meetings with a check, and it meant so much to us. It really contributed to our early success, and it’s a story I tell often.”
Over the last seven years, that success has continued to grow. Since their doors opened in November of 2011, DFSQC has suited more than 1,800 women. This reach is made possible through continuous financial gifts and clothing donations – including some from Royal Neighbors members in the region. (Regina tells us that Chapter 1685 in Beetown – see our Gathering to Give article – donates clothing “all the time.”)
And while Regina admits that the suiting aspect of the program may seem shallow to outsiders, she stresses that it’s about so much more than clothes. “I don’t really like clothes myself,” she laughs. “But it’s about so much more. Our clients want better jobs and better care, and they want security. And the confidence we all feel when we put our best foot forward – it is empowering. The clothes are simply the foundation for the rest.”
In 2018, when Regina and her team were ready to provide more than just professional clothing, Royal Neighbors was there once again to help them launch the Professional Women’s Group (PWG). This service, designed to help women keep their new jobs by providing free training and professional development, is paying off in a big way. “Of those who complete the PWG program, 80% retain their jobs, and more than half see an improvement in the indicators for self-sufficiency – things like keeping the job, opening a checking account, or receiving a raise or promotion,” Regina explains.
“There’s a residual effect from this success,” Regina adds. “Eighty percent of our clients have children. Can you imagine what it’s like for these kids to see Mom succeed? It helps them believe there is a chance for their own futures.”
This summer, Regina will retire from her position as Executive Director at DFSQC, leaving behind a strong organization and a lasting legacy. It’s a bittersweet moment, but one she embraces. “A nonprofit is different. It does not belong to any single person. You pour your heart and soul into it – but it’s not yours. It belongs to everyone.”
She also remains humble about her contributions to their success. “I just feel really lucky. A lot of things happened at the right time both personally and professionally. Yes, I brought persistence, but we had some fantastic volunteers right out of the gate who really helped us grow.”
Regina is excited about the future, too. She anticipates that the organization will double its revenue in the next three to five years, exponentially increasing its ability to provide services back to the community. “All that capacity has to continue, and we can only do that because of great partners like Royal Neighbors.”
If you are interested in supporting Dress for Success, visit dressforsuccess.org to find your local affiliate.