The "Rubicon Rangers" series is a first-person account of Rubicon's intern experience, authored by the interns, Jessica, Sandy and Justin, themselves.
A hole barely wider than a pencil left a fray of pocket lining visible. The bright white of the thread stood out from the trousers’ tan plaid.
"So, should we just give it away?" I asked.
Justin, a fellow Rubicon Programs intern, muttered, "I guess."
Sandy, another intern, turned back to tagging the suit hanging on the clothing rack. I reluctantly placed the full suit in a white plastic trash bag.
"What a shame," I sighed, shaking my head.
Wardrobe for Opportunity – a nonprofit organization that helps connect people in poverty with much-needed clothing – has a sorting system that specifies that patterned blazers must be given away to another charity if its matching trousers are damaged, even if the coat is in perfect condition. The policy ensures that their clients always look professional, ready for their next job interview.
The next part of the process is sizing procedure. It’s a mechanical process. First, look for a label. Then, fold and measure. Finally, hang up the item and tag it. As we got into the routine of sizing, we considered the materials we used and the demands of our participants.
Justin, Sandy and I are working together to develop Rubicon's own clothing closet, which will offer program participants access to a large wardrobe of interview and work attire. Understandably, feeling comfortable in the fit, style and professionalism of one's clothing is integral to the confidence necessary to thrive in the world of work.
At the end of Wardrobe for Opportunity’s training workshop, which they kindly allowed us to participate in, we looked back at the two racks of tagged suits and sport coats and gleaned a vision for our project.
We hope to create a boutique-style “shop” with a personal fitting room. The goal is to minimize the stress and cost of finding appropriate clothing.
Justin, a senior in high school, is excited to see the final product late this summer. "I hope that our clothing closet will have a comforting and inviting atmosphere. Rubicon’s participants should feel welcome to use it anytime."
So far, Rubicon only has a small closet with a few racks and a couple of bags of clothes. Our biggest challenge is to sort through it all and determine what is work-appropriate, and what should be given away.
The training exercise at Wardrobe for Opportunity not only provided us with a helpful framework, but also raised questions about our closet’s design.
The closet is disorganized and lacks options, according to Sandy, who’s also in high school. But she’s optimistic. “We can use the skills we learned at Wardrobe for Opportunity and apply it to our work at Rubicon," she said.
As interns new to the workforce, taking on such a large project was both intimidating and exciting.
Gratefully, Rubicon Programs has given the interns a warm welcome to the nonprofit field. Justin described their team as friendly and warm. “It's inspiring to see people so dedicated to what they do, and what their organization does," he said.
As an intern, there is so much to look forward to learning and doing. Sandy, in particular, is excited to attend her first “Stepping Stones Ceremony,” the monthly event culminating Rubicon’s participants’ completion of the program’s “Foundations Workshop.”
“I want to see and hear participants’ stories and how Rubicon has impacted their life," she said.
In the meantime, we are all working hard to complete the closet in less than two months. In July, Wardrobe for Opportunity will connect us with Men's Warehouse, who has pledged a shipment of suits, helping get us one step closer.
Our newly acquired knowledge about sizing and tagging clothes, combined with our new sorting guidelines, has set us up for success.
Our entire intern team can’t wait to see the clothing closet in action, helping people break poverty one interview at a time.