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Staff by Day, Fundraiser by Night

News Story

Vanessa J. Herman, assistant vice president of Government and Community Relations, supports women through her mentoring roles at Pace and in her local community as a board member of Dress For Success Brookhaven.

Vanessa J. Herman, assistant vice president of Government and Community Relations, is passionate about helping and empowering other women. Within the University, she serves as a mentor to students through the Setting the Pace program and to her colleagues who approach her for guidance, and she also carries that commitment outside of the office through her work with Dress for Success Brookhaven.

Herman currently serves on the board of directors for Dress for Success of Brookhaven, Long Island, which is a nonprofit organization that helps women achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional work attire, and the development tools to help women be confident and thrive in work and in life.

“As a woman who works, there was just something very attractive about helping other women enter the workforce after what happened to them that drove them out or stopped them from being there,” Herman says. “It’s women helping women essentially.”

Dress for Success Brookhaven, which was the first affiliate to be established and serves all of Suffolk and Nassau Counties, provides women in tough financial or personal situations with business clothing, shoes, undergarments, accessories, and purses—many of which are from brand name designers or new with tags thanks to donations from local retail stores.

The women, who Herman says are often recommended to the organization through their church or by word of mouth, go in for an initial interview suiting where they are given a complete look to help them feel confident and land the job they are seeking.

If they get a second interview, they come in for an additional suiting, and once they acquire the position, they are given an entire mix and match wardrobe to head into their position everyday feeling confident that they will always look good.

Herman says she began her journey with Dress for Success by donating her gently used work clothes to the organization located in Brookhaven Hall, which is in close proximity to her home. As time progressed, the Brookhaven commissioner and deputy commissioner, who were both involved on the board, thought she would be a great asset to the team and invited her to join the board of directors.

As a board member, Herman attends quarterly meetings to talk finances and organizes events to try to bring awareness to the program so women can utilize their services.

Currently, Herman is in the process of coordinating Dress for Success Brookhaven’s first big fundraiser, which will be held on May 12 in a vineyard on Long Island. They are partnering with a local country radio station for the country-themed event and plan to sell up to 200 tickets to raise awareness and funds for the cause.

“Being on a board entails a lot of meetings and a lot of dedication,” Herman says. “I would never agree to be on a board unless I know I could follow through with the obligations, and that is why you have to be passionate about it. Otherwise you’re not going to find the time to do it.”

With her and the board’s hard work, along with the efforts of more than 40 volunteers, Dress for Success Brookhaven had 361 total suitings—271 interview suitings and 91 employment suitings—which helped many women achieve professional success.

Herman has had the chance to personally meet some of the women they have impacted and says she is grateful she has the opportunity to help through this organization.

“When I first joined the board, this one woman sent a letter to us and said, ‘You have changed my life—I never thought I’d be in a position where I would be able to take care of myself, and now I am,’” says Herman. “We’ve gotten lovely letters from some of the women who have gone through the program, gone through fittings, and have subsequently gotten jobs, and that just provides a really good feeling and makes me happy to do that and be involved in an organization like this.”

In addition to the fittings and suitings, Dress for Success Brookhaven also provides a Going Places Network, which are training programs to teach women how to be a professional in a business. On Saturdays, professionals come in and talk to women about workplace demeanor, etiquette, and problem solving.

Herman says she plans to spend time with the women through this program and is eager to continue volunteering her services to Dress for Success Brookhaven.

“I think everyone should spend time donating, volunteering time or services, or doing whatever you can do,” Herman says. “It helps you become a better person, and I think it helps you become compassionate toward people that might not be in a position that you are. It is a great organization, and we are helping women, and that makes me happy.”

To learn more about Dress for Success Brookhaven, visit https://brookhaven.dressforsuccess.org/about-us/.