“Women Helping Women” Build Careers – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

“Women Helping Women” Build Careers

Kendall Farrell ’92, executive director of Bottomless Closet, is thrilled to be celebrating the organization’s 10th anniversary. Founded in 1999, Bottomless Closet is a nonprofit organization that promotes self-sufficiency among economically disadvantaged women in New York City through career, financial and personal development workshops. It has helped more than 7,000 women toward stable employment and supports over 1,000 women each year.

Bottomless Closet prides itself on the integrity and impact of “women helping women,” a concept which helps clients transform their lives by building better futures for their families, for society, and for themselves. Bottomless Closet attributes its success to the generous donations of lightly-used business clothing and the invaluable time of volunteers, who provide more than 350 hours of service monthly.

Women referred from 70 partnered organizations with scheduled job interviews meet with volunteers, who help clients prepare for the interview by reviewing their resumes, interview questions and protocol, and job search basics. Volunteers and clients work together to create two interview-appropriate outfits, and, once employed, clients may return for three more outfits to wear on the job. Clients are then invited to career development workshops, which help hone communication, business etiquette, and image skills, to help them function more confidently in the workplace. Clients maintain a rapport with volunteers during employment.

The idea for Bottomless Closet was sparked by a 1996 New York Times article that delved into the issues surrounding mothers on public assistance who sought employment, including the problem of obtaining appropriate interview clothing. The article suggested that these women did not know what to wear for an interview, and lacked the self-assurance to present themselves in an interview setting.

“I absolutely love being able to impact women’s lives in such a positive way,” Farrell says. “You can see an immediate change in our clients’ lives; a transformation from the moment they walk in the door. Their self-esteem, posture, body language, demeanor…everything improves within half an hour.”

Farrell graduated from William Smith with a degree in sociology. “My courses at Hobart and William Smith gave me the opportunity to try out different things,” she explained.  She conducted an independent study on HIV/AIDS and, after graduating, turned to non-profit organizations, working at both a rape crisis center and a hospice. She helped open a residential facility for those afflicted with HIV/AIDS and served as the executive director for the largest HIV organization in Vermont before moving to New York in 2007 to work for Bottomless Closet.