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, is ready to put the tumultuous, coronavirus-driven roller coaster of 2020 in the rearview mirror.
After two years of leading Bloom’s mission of providing complimentary wardrobes to members of the Marin community, Executive Director Lenice Cally Smith is moving to the next phase in her career. “During my tenure as executive director, it was immensely gratifying to see the smiles of joy and relief of so many of our clients as they transitioned to a life of self-reliance and a better future,” Smith says. “These transformations illustrate a simple truth: We are all connected. Barbara Lee’s vision continues to serve and inspire those in need here in Marin –22 years and going strong!”
The organization’s board of directors acknowledged Smith’s “exemplary job supporting Bloom’s mission and continuing our work through incredibly challenging times,” noting that director of operations Tamra Phillips will be continuing her work and service of their clients. “We couldn’t have done it without her!” says Mill Valley resident Sherene Chen, the organizations former CEO and board member, who has returned as interim CEO to “set up Bloom for a smooth transition and an exciting future.”
Formerly called Image for Success, the organization 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.