Saying yes to the better-dressed

Posted on October 12, 2019 by Sonoma Valley Sun
Joelle Smith

As the founder of SHEnoma, an all-volunteer team that matches donated clothes with teenagers who need a little fashion savvy to make a good first job impression, Joelle Smith didn’t mind when one of her young clients ran out of a Teen Services Ready to Work ceremony. “The student had to dash off to his new job,” Smith says. “He was proud and excited and didn’t want to be late for his first shift.”

Smith and her mission are a perfect fit. A fashion stylist, she had volunteered at Dress for Success in San Francisco, but wanted to establish a similar model closer to home. 

First impressions, and how you present yourself at an interview, matter, she says. “It’s empowering for teens and is confidence boosting to have something new to wear.”

Her collaboration with Teen Services and the Ready to Work Program has been a big success. And right now, with a record number of teens ready to participate in this year’s Fall Ready to Work workshop, the call is out for donations. Think business attire: dresses, blouses, pants and skirts for young men; khaki pants, ties, sport coats for young men. “All donations that are clean, in season, lightly worn and interview-appropriate are welcome.”

Everything – clothing, shoes, purses, accessories, the lot – is donated. Then Smith and her volunteer crew clean and sort it. Then comes a “pop-up boutique” for the teens to shop and get tips on how to get just the right look. All at no charge, of course. 

“Repurposing clothing is a win-win,” she says. “It’s better for the environment and it supports teens.” It’s not always about the job – last February, she organized a pop-up store of prom dresses. 

Smith, who has volunteered for Samaritan House and headed up a clothing drive for victims of the 2017 wildfires, is proud of the ongoing partnership with Teen Services. Says the Sonoma mother of two, “Teen Services is such an important program in our community and I’m honored to be a fashionable part of it.”



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