​Like so many nonprofits all over the globe, Bloom, the San Rafael-based nonprofit that provides free wardrobes and life skills training to men, women and families transitioning to a life of self-reliance and looking for a job, has had to get creative in organizing its annual fundraiser during the COVID-19 crisis.

The organization, which was founded as Image for Success in 1999 and hired executive director Lenice Smith in 2019 to build on the success established by Sherene Chen, is shifting to a virtual fundraiser in 2020. The event, set for September 17 from 6:30-7:30pm. You can register for the event here

Bloom changed its name in 2016 to reflect its broader array of services designed to have a direct, tangible impact on people’s lives at a critical moment: people and families transitioning to a life of self-reliance and looking for a job, whether it’s a person just released from prison, someone recovering from substance abuse or a victim of domestic abuse seeking independence. They also offer financial and career literacy workshops.

Located at 1557 Fourth Street in downtown San Rafael, Bloom runs a retail store that accepts donated clothing. They also take a lot of that clothing to the clients that are referred to them through a variety of social services agencies like Adopt a Family of Marin, Center for Domestic Peace, Community Action Marin and the Marin Employment Connection, as well as school administrators, clergy and teachers.

Clients can come back to Bloom every season, and the organization’s volunteer dressers are trained to deliver a “Nordstroms-like experience,” Chen says. “They act as personal shoppers for their clients. And those clients feel really respected, which is part of our mission. It’s not just about clothes.

Image for Success was founded in 1999 by Barbara Lee, after President Clinton established the welfare-to-work program and Lee found out that one San Rafael agency had 40 women ready to go to work but didn’t have any business clothes. Prior to Image for Success’ creation, Cal Works (a welfare-to-work program) had provided each of their clients with vouchers to shop at a local discount store. But Lee wanted to create a more positive and personalized shopping experience for these women who were struggling to meet the serious challenges in their lives.

Over the years, the program grew, expanding to include men in 2005, and then relocated to Fourth Street in 2007, allowing the organization to open a consignment store. In 2011, bolstered by revenue from that store, Image for Success hit a milestone of having served 10,000 clients. The organization continued to expand on its partnerships with referring agencies, and has now served more than 15,000 clients. 



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