All it took was an introduction to Dress for Success Columbus for Maya Patel to become inspired by the nonprofit's mission.
Dress for Success Columbus, 1204 N. High St., is a local affiliate of a worldwide nonprofit that provides support, professional attire and development tools for women. The international organization was founded in 1997 and is in more than 150 cities in 30 countries, according to its website, dressforsuccess.org.
Patel, a New Albany High School senior, said she accompanied her mother to an event celebrating the organization's 10th anniversary last year.
Her mother, Anita, works with community partners that provide services for underprivileged individuals, such as the career support provided by Dress for Success, Patel said. Some of her mother's clients have used Dress for Success, she said.
Now Patel, 17, has become involved in her own way, as a Dress for Success intern for her senior-seminar project. Senior seminar is a New Albany High School graduation requirement in which students research an idea and create a product or complete a project; they must document 80 hours of work.
In addition to her internship, Patel is managing donation drives to collect work-wear accessories for Dress for Success clients.
Patel will hold a collection drive from 4 to 7 p.m. July 19 at the New Albany Farmers Market in Market Square. She will accept donations of gently used jewelry, new makeup and personal-care items.
For the entire month, she has set up a donation box at the New Albany Church of the Resurrection, 6300 E. Dublin-Granville Road, for the aforementioned items, as well as handbags and scarves.
"A lot of people don't think to donate ... makeup and things like that," she said.
Many people in the New Albany community, she said, likely have jewelry, makeup and other items that they no longer are using.
Patel's internship began in June and runs through August, and she works a six-hour day once weekly, helping in the donation-intake area and the hospitality desk.
Although the organization's largest demographic is women ages 35 to 50, the nonprofit works with high school students to octogenarians, said Molly Preston, manager of community engagement for Dress for Success Columbus.
Seventy-nine percent of clients are single mothers, Preston said. Most of the women are at or below poverty level and either unemployed or underemployed.
"It's not just one bucket of women that we serve," she said.
Women are referred to the organization via more than 125 referral agencies, Preston said.
In addition to clothing, clients can attend weekly career-center workshops and, once employed, join a professional women's group. Mentoring also is available, Preston said.
To prepare for interviews, women receive an initial outfit that includes three pieces of jewelry, a handbag and shoes, Patel said. After they land a job, women receive five more outfits. Everything is free.
Patel said she enjoys working with the organization's personal stylist, who helps women select clothes for job interviews. She assists by talking to the women to understand what they need and to make sure their clothing is the right size.
Staff members help the women select outfits in which they feel confident, Patel said.
"If they're not a suit person, then we're not going to put them in a suit," she said.