Dressing for success: Department store helps women prepare for future

Evelyn Huerta of Warren, a scholarship winner from Youngstown-based Beatitude House, shops for clothes at Macy’s at the Eastwood Mall in Niles on Thursday afternoon. The store gave 15 women from the program each $100 gift cards to buy clothes needed for job interviews, work, school or their children. The women also received a $25 gift card for Firebirds at the mall.

NILES — Macy’s at the Eastwood Mall on Thursday gave 15 women some help with preparing for their futures.

The women with Youngstown-based Beatitude House were each given $100 gift cards to buy needed clothing for job interviews, for work or for their children.

Keshia Bales, associate director at the house, said this was a great opportunity.

“It might not be something that presents itself all the time to the women we serve, (but) the opportunity to feel confident in clothing when they go to a job interview or to that first professional job is so vital for them and their success,” Bales said.

Donation of the gift cards stems from Macy’s assistant manager Pamela Shelby who, after learning about Beatitude House, suggested the corporate office get involved.

“We notified Macy’s because they do a lot of donations and we recommended they do something for (the house) and they decided to give us the gift cards for them,” Shelby said.

Beatitude House is a nonprofit corporation of the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown that addresses the needs of disadvantaged women and children. The organization operates transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, immigrant outreach including English language services and the Ursuline Sisters Scholars program. In 30 years of service, Beatitude House programs have helped more than 7,500 women and children break the bonds of generational poverty.

Bales said receiving Shelby’s call was a blessing and a huge opportunity for the women.

“We’re just so grateful,” Bales said. “We were so blessed to receive a phone call from Pamela and Macy’s and we’re excited to pass this opportunity to the women we serve.”

Erica Payne from Youngstown said her gift card money would be used for appropriate clothes for school, as she is enrolled at Eastern Gateway Community College for social work. She has sights set toward Youngstown State University after completing courses at EGCC.

“Everything I’ve had over the years has been ‘mom stuff’ and house stuff, so I’m very excited to get some things I can use in my next phase,” Payne said.

Payne added that she has been with Beatitude House for three years, and in that time, her life has been changed immensely.

“I came into the housing program, and now I’m part of the scholars program, as well, to go back to school,” Payne said. “After 11 years of divorce, I had struggled long enough. I ended up getting addicted to different substances, and my children started to suffer and experiment as well. When children services got involved, I knew things had to change. Since that day in 2017, it’s been a constant uphill battle to change my life. I will have four years sober in July.”

Payne added that the support from Beatitude House has helped quite a bit.

“They were very supportive, and it’s been a wonderful experience for me,” she said. “Everything’s good. It’s not perfect by any means but wonderful compared to how it was.”

Another woman with Beatitude House, Evelyn Huerta of Warren, is part of the scholarship program with the organization and helps with another program offered by the house, starting three years ago.

“I also help with their immigration outreach, where I help women and children speak English,” Huerta said.

Huerta added that she studies Spanish education at Kent State University.

“I love helping others when it comes to language barriers,” she said.

In addition to the clothing gift cards, Shelby reached out to Joe Bell, The Cafaro Company director of corporate communications, and the mall pitched in $25 gift cards to Firebirds Wood Fired Grill so the ladies can enjoy a meal.

“The Beatitude House does great things, and we’re glad we can help them,” Bell said.

Full story can be read here.