FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – The USO Pathfinder Transition Program, Spouse Employment Center and Armed Services YMCA have partnered to create a clothing voucher program that affords Soldiers and their spouses the opportunity to obtain one free outfit of business attire.
The program is only a couple weeks old, but already five or six transitioning Soldiers have received vouchers for clothing to dress professionally for interviews.
The collaboration that led to the creation of the program started when the Spouse Employment Center moved into a new building.
Lauren Kovaleski, USO Pathfinder Transition manager, said the idea came from an existing clothing donation program.
“We were moving out of our old building and there were some leftover clothing donations and we were just trying to figure out a way to make that more known to the Fort Campbell community and figure out the best way to house that service,” Kovaleski said.
The Spouse Employment Center got involved and Holly Nusom, employment services counselor, contacted the ASYMCA for help.
“It was a group effort to figure out what place on the installation would be able to house clothing and provide some kind of voucher system,” Nusom said. “It was about reaching out to the organization to figure out if this was something we could do.”
Lindsey White, executive director of the ASYMCA happily accepted the opportunity to create a voucher for business clothing and said it is only logical to help given they already have a ball gown rental program.
“They knew that we ran the Backdoor Boutique so they wanted to know if this was some sort of partnership that we could do where they were willing to donate the clothes to us if we were willing to continue the program,” White said.
With the space already available, she created the voucher and the program came into being.
Dressing the part
Kovaleski, Nusom and White are excited to get the program started and know it will support Soldiers transitioning to civilian life and help spouses obtain employment.
Each organization values the program because it prepares Soldiers and spouses for interviews and takes some of the financial burden away.
The program is especially important because for Soldiers transitioning into civilian life, the change from wearing a uniform every day to wearing business attire can seem foreign and their experience in purchasing these items is limited, Kovaleski said.
This means they may not always know what to look for or what’s appropriate, she said, emphasizing the program is just as beneficial to spouses because a PCS sometimes means not all of their belongings have arrived or are available for use.
This could include business attire. The program strives to remove those barriers to seeking and gaining employment.
“To go buy something that’s professional that they can interview in and put their best foot forward can be a little intimidating,” Nusom said. “This voucher program takes that cost burden away.”
“In addition to alleviating some of the cost, this also can take away some of the stress that comes along with that last final move out of the military,” White said. “that’s a space we want to be in.”
All three also stressed the importance of dressing well for interviews to make a strong and professional first impression and how this can impact employment decisions.
How to get involved
Soldiers and spouses who are interested in using the program and receiving a voucher should contact the Spouse Employment Center at 270-412-1720 or the Fort Campbell USO Pathfinder Transition Program at 270-985-8547.
Vouchers are given at the locations above and allow the Soldier or spouse to receive a complete outfit at the ASYMCA, 3068 Reed Ave.
An outfit includes everything from shirts, blouses, suits, ties and any other clothing to make the outfit complete and ready for use.
Once the voucher is issued, the recipient has 30 days to use it and it is only valid for one use.
If interested in donating business attire that is in good condition to the program, contact the ASYMCA at 270-798-7422. Items that are needed most are women’s business suits, but all business attire is welcome.