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Dressed for Success

Morgan’s Closet Opens Doors for Local Women

Article by Denise K. James

Photography by Sam Evans, Rhythm Creative

Originally published in Birmingham Lifestyle

Four years ago, Andrea Collins found herself in an abusive marriage. She knew she would have to think fast – her then-husband had talked her out of working and going back to school, so coming up with money to support herself would be tricky. Fast-forward a few years, and Andrea now looks back on that tough period knowing it was meant to happen. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have been inspired to launch her nonprofit, Morgan’s Closet, and help so many other women get a new foothold in life. 

“I got out of my situation, but some women can’t do it so easily, and I wanted to break those barriers for other women,” she said. 

In addition to gently-used business attire to help women dress for success, Morgan’s Closet offers workshops each Saturday which are fun and lighthearted yet informative. The workshops consist of job basics, like how to set up a professional email address and how to job-hunt. Attendees also break into small groups, role play for future interviews, talk about their resumes and enjoy a tasty lunch and plenty of camaraderie. Best of all, they get to shop the numerous clothing racks with blouses, slacks, jackets, dresses and other elements of business attire. Each attendee receives a copy of the workbook Andrea created, containing outfit diagrams, pointers for appropriate dress and useful job tips and contacts.

“We also have 30-day and 60-day follow-ups for accountability,” Andrea noted. “I don’t want to just give these women a handout. My intention is to give them the tools they need to get out of their situation and into a better one.”

Word is spreading quickly about Morgan’s Closet. Another Birmingham nonprofit, Hope Inspired Ministries, partnered with Andrea to ensure even more women are outfitted for new jobs. Hope Inspired Ministries, or HIM for short, offers a nine-week program for all backgrounds ages 18 and up to get back into the workforce. Birmingham Site Director Gene McCord recently asked Andrea to educate HIM students on business attire and extend the offer to shop at Morgan’s Closet. 

One heartwarming success story resulting from this partnership is that of Gelena Bronthetyn, known by friends as “Miss G.” A native of the former Soviet Union who relocated to the United States with her late mother, Miss G graduated from Hope Inspired Ministries but struggled to find a suitable job. She’d been out of the workforce at least a decade, she had no clothing to wear, and her confidence was waning. Fortunately for Miss G, the nonprofits joined forces to help her find a part-time job at Waffle House in downtown Birmingham, greeting patrons and escorting them to tables. “She wondered whether being a hostess at Waffle House, like one of her classmates, would be a good idea for her,” Gene explained. “She had no clothes, but our new relationship with Andrea and Morgan’s Closet prepared her.”

To ensure she aced the interview, Andrea found Miss G a few suitable outfits. Now Miss G has a favorite  — a red blazer, a black skirt and a black blouse — and has been seen wearing it around the Magic City multiple times, much to Gene and Andrea’s delight and amusement. 

“She keeps raving about her new clothes. It just goes to show that these clothes give women a sense of confidence,” Andrea beamed. 

Another student of Hope Inspired Ministries, Ruth Whitt, is finishing the program this month and starting the interview process, wearing clothing from Morgan’s Closet. “Visiting Morgan’s Closet was wonderful,” Ruth shared. “We sat around the conference table, talked and got to know each other. It was so positive, and I felt like I was being pampered for the day with lunch and trying on clothes!”

“When Andrea came in and talked to us, I realized her passion, energy level and expertise,” Gene added. “Her workbook and her ability to teach the class on business attire are why she’s now on the calendar to teach.”

Andrea is heartened by Birmingham’s overall generosity and warm reception to Morgan’s Closet, and she plans to focus on funding so more women can benefit. Her location in Woodlawn — shared with another woman-owned nonprofit, CYO Sewing Ministries — has been a golden opportunity to watch the neighborhood flourish. 

“The bus drops off at our front door, so it’s accessible to a lot of the women,” she noted. “The revitalization of this community is amazing.”

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  • Morgan's Closet offers gently-used business attire to help women dress for success.
  • Andrea Collins
  • Andrea and Ruth review the workbook.
  • Andrea helps Ruth Whitt choose an outfit.
  • Shoes galore at Morgan's Closet