After a devastating fire, Working Wardrobes looks to rebuild

In the early morning hours of Sunday, Feb. 2, a fire broke out at the headquarters of Working Wardrobes, which collects and distributes workplace clothing to help people in need find meaningful employment.

It was several hours before firefighters could access the building at 1851 Kettering St. in Irvine. By the time officials were able to assess the damage, everything inside — including jackets, blouses, belts, shirts, shoes, skirts, ties, jewelry and office equipment — was destroyed.

Building fire
A fire destroyed the headquarters of Working Wardrobes on Feb. 2. (Photos courtesy of Working Wardrobes)

“We are absolutely devastated by this catastrophic loss,” founder and CEO Jerri Rosen said. “The heart of our operations is gone, and so is 30 years of history.”

Established in 1990, Working Wardrobes has helped more than 100,000 men, women, young adults and veterans access the job market with professional business attire. Clients, referred from programs all over Southern California, have had to overcome such obstacles as substance abuse, domestic violence, incarceration, homelessness and the transition from military service to civilian life.

Count the Orange County Department of Education among its many partners. The staff at Working Wardrobes has outfitted scores of students from the department’s alternative education program, or ACCESS, with clothes appropriate for professional interviews.

Now comes the rebuild, and OCDE staff will be among those making donations.

Working Wardrobes says it’s already accepting new and gently used items at its temporary home, the Goodwill Fitness Center in Santa Ana. It’s located at 1601 E. St Andrew Place.

“Working Wardrobes has been an invaluable resource for our students and communities, providing a path for so many to employment, a steady paycheck and the dignity that meaningful work brings,” Orange County Superintendent Dr. Al Mijares said. “Our staff has already begun collecting donations to help this organization restock and get back to the business of changing lives. Together, we can make Working Wardrobes bigger and better than before.”

Clothes brought to Working Wardrobes should should be clean, on hangars and in great condition. Along with men and women’s business-casual and professional business attire, the nonprofit is asking for quality accessories, shoes, purses and costume jewelry.

Rolling racks, jewelry displays and shoe racks are also needed, as are “goodie” gift bags and full-size bath and hygiene products.

“We are grateful and relieved to report that no one was hurt or in the building at the time of the fire,” Rosen, the CEO, said in a news release. “Now our job is to get back on our feet so we can serve our clients very quickly and we aim to do just that with the help of our remarkable community.”

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