MIAMI – Renowned singer and songwriter Chaka Khan is lending her celebrity status to the Dress for Success Worldwide organization which helps low-income women with clothing and job-hunting, the artist announced.
She made the announcement Saturday at the ninth annual Dress for Success Summit, which she headlined, at the Kimpton Epic Hotel in downtown Miami.
Khan was a surprise guest for the 150 or so women attending an awards dinner as part of the gathering.
She sashayed into the Metropolis Ballroom in a blue draped dress to the sound of I’m Every Woman, one of her signature tunes, played by a keyboardist, and screams of appreciation.
Khan serenaded the women and spoke briefly to them. She also announced she is setting up an “I’m Every Woman” scholarship through Dress for Success.
“I am just over the moon to be here,” Khan said. “I am grateful to be an ambassador of this organization because I travel all over the world and this is a worldwide organization.”
The summit was hosted by Dress for Success Miami, one of six Florida affiliates of the organization. Palm Beach County also has an affiliate but was not represented at the meeting. “Miami chose us for the
summit,” said Joi Gordon, CEO of Dress for Success Worldwide. “The Epic called us and said you are doing great things and we want to be associated with you.”
Khan will perform for the public Saturday at the Kames L. Knight International Center in Miami.
The Miami affiliate has helped some 35,000 low-income women with clothing and job assistance since its founding in 1994, including 1,300 last year.
One in two of the women whom the local affiliate helped is black and 45 percent are Hispanic. One in two finds employment after receiving Dress for Success services, the organization said. At least one got an eye.
LaQuita Sartin was the first person Dress for Success Miami helped. The New Orleans native moved her family to Miami after a fight with her stepsister caused her to lose her eye, she said. She went on welfare and, while being naturally upbeat, she was depressed.
“It was my face,” she kept saying over and over about why she felt bad about herself.
The welfare program referred Sartin to Dress for Success which provided her with a beige outfit, shoes and a handbag and a promise of an eye. She did not believe it would be kept.
“Then the phone started ringing and people were making appointments with me,” Sartin said. “Soon I had my eye. I was so happy.”
Eighteen years later, Sartin is back with Dress for Success, this time helping to motivate and help other women through the
Professional Women’s Group. The year-old division of Dress for Success Miami mentors women on how to retain their jobs and other life skills. Terry Howell, a volunteer, coordinates this program.
In 2007, Howell was on the run from an abusive relationship. With no home, clothes or job, she was outfitted by Dress for Success Miami. Impressed with the program and the attention she received, Howell started volunteering.
Today, Howell runs her own business as a disability advocate which she started less than three months ago. She received her first paycheck for $6,000 last week.
She was ecstatic to be at the summit. “This is my first one,” she said. “It’s great to be around all these women who are doing wonderful things.”