Q&A: Wings for Success’s Jackie Cody Downing
The president of the Frazer and Kennett Square non-profit shares her favorite things this month.
Westtown’s Jackie Cody Downing is all about empowering people. Through her work as president of the Frazer and Kennett Square Wings for Success sites and as a human-resources consultant and life coach, Downing has done just that. To date, the nonprofit has helped over 9,000 women dress for success.
1. Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar in Glen Mills. “I love their flatbreads, and their salads are divine.”
2. Joe Sample. “I’m a big fan of jazz music.”
3. Longwood Gardens. “It’s a great place to meet my son, who lives in Wilmington. It’s beautiful and dynamic, and it changes with the seasons.”
4. Inside Out. “I’m a grandmother of a 9-year-old, and this movie is for all ages.”
5. Swingin’ Summer Thursdays in West Chester. “It’s a way for people to come out and get together and eat some good food. It feels like a block party.”
From Left: Harvest; Joe Sample; Inside Out
MLT: What is the goal of Wings for Success?
JCD: Wings is a place to help women in need, as they are seeking or maintaining employment, by providing work-appropriate clothing. We’re trying to empower women to be able to become self-sustaining. Our goal is for these women to be reminded that they’re smart, talented, have something to offer and aren’t defined by the circumstances.
MLT: How does the process work?
JCD: We screen the women on the phone so we know what job interviews they’re going for. The volunteers will go to our clothing area and will get the appropriate clothing. We have dressing rooms. We want them to feel really valued when they have completed their experience with us. We dress women from the inside out. It can be anything from scrubs to working at a store that requires khaki pants. We also provide undergarments. We have a room with handbags and belts. We try to give them the whole outfit, at least a week’s worth of clothing. We also offer them other resources, workshops around workplace dressing.
MLT: What are typical reactions to the experience?
JCD: The smile on their face as they walk out with a couple of shopping bags is priceless. For people to talk about how excited they are for the interview because they now feel prepared, it warms your heart and it’s inspiring.
MLT: What made you want to work with women to help empower them?
JCD: I was a single mother raising my son. While I didn’t need the services of Wings, parenting is a hard job, single parenting is a really hard job. I’ve always been appreciative of the struggles women in particular go through trying to raise families. As you empower women, you help the family and ultimately the neighborhood and community.
MLT: How does the fashion show help support that vision?
JCD: It’s a collaboration that we’ve been lucky enough to put on with Immaculata University. We have a variety of models—women modeling fashions from local boutiques, some original designers, and local designers. Our dressers also dress a few of our Wings clients. We also offer workshops there. We’re focusing on rejuvenation, health and wellness. It’s a fun and energizing experience.