Story by Heather Feeler | Aug 31, 2016
Photography by Anthony Jinson

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A local boutique goes above and beyond for women in need.

by Heather Feeler

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For Delsa Byrd, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, living life to the fullest no longer has anything to do with drugs and everything to do with feeling confident again in her own skin. She gives credit to an organization she says changed her from the inside out — Dreams to Reality.

“Once I got clean and sober, the way I dressed didn’t fit me anymore, and I had low self-esteem,” says Byrd. “They gave me my self-worth back when I didn’t know where to find it.”

Dreams to Reality, which started 16 years ago as a grassroots effort in Jefferson City by three local women, provides free work attire to help women in transition feel confident and prepared for employment opportunities. While the mission remains the same, the dream continues to expand. Dreams to Reality, a United Way agency, serves more than 200 clients each year by individually working with them on a professional wardrobe put together solely by generous community donations.

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“We have professional image consultants who are great at helping people style clothes, and they personally pick out a week’s worth of clothing that looks great on the client,” says Lorie Smith, executive director of Dreams to Reality. “They leave with 25 free items that will make 35 different outfits.”

In order to continue giving generously to clients, Dreams to Reality relies on the clean, professional clothing and accessories, including shoes and handbags, donated to their store by local women with big hearts. In February, the agency moved into a new building in order to offer a retail boutique where all women in the community can shop.

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“A retail boutique gives us sustainability and an ongoing fundraising opportunity,” says Smith. “It also provides women a chance to shop for high-quality clothes at an affordable price while also greatly helping a nonprofit organization in our community.”

It was the mission of helping women that drew Michele Caywood to the organization. She now serves as president of Dreams to Reality. But it is the story of the women, and their unwavering resilience, that touches her heart the most. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

“It is a very humbling experience to hear the stories of these women, what they’ve been through, and the strength they possess,” says Caywood. “Helping Delsa and all women in transition is a true privilege. We couldn’t walk this journey without the dynamic support and generosity of the Jefferson City community and United Way.”

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Caywood also notes it wouldn’t be possible without the 25 dedicated volunteers working each week sorting and tagging clothes, assisting in the retail boutique, and serving clients. Dreams to Reality also has twelve board members passionate about carrying out the mission of the organization, which includes making sure one board member is a client.

“We, as a board, need to pay close attention to the needs of our clients. Having a client on the board gives us that strong voice,” says Caywood.

Byrd isn’t a board member, but her voice and appreciation for how Dreams to Reality has changed her life rings loud and clear. It’s a story about coming out of the ashes, reborn to a whole new you. It’s a chance Byrd wants for everyone.

“Don’t be afraid to allow someone to help you and show you something different. Trust the women there, because they know what they’re doing,” says Byrd. “You can put on clothes that make you feel good or put on clothes that make you feel great. Go with great!”

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Dreams to Reality, located at 500 Jefferson St. in Jefferson City, is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the first Saturday of every month from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Donations of clean, professional work attire, preferably on hangers, and other accessories are greatly appreciated. No appointment needed to drop off donations. For interest in referring a client for services, call Executive Director Lorie Smith at 573-681-WORK, or visit www.dreamstoreality-jc.org.

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