When Gretchen D'Auria’s youngest daughter was a teenager, she became involved in a nonprofit—My Girlfriend’s Closet—which collected and distributed gently used clothing and accessories to disadvantaged girls ages 13-22. It was a good experience, she recalls.
So when she was brainstorming ways to help the Trojan Food Pantry, the idea of a clothing drive came up immediately.
“The idea of a clothing closet for our student population had come up before, but we didn’t have the storage capacity,” said Alejandra Hong, manager of Student Basic Needs, which oversees the Trojan Food Pantry.
But D’Auria, who works 60 percent time for the Executive MBA program remotely from her San Diego home and the rest of the time for Mailing and Material Management Services, did have the storage.
“I realized that I could help make this a reality,” she said.
“I have been worried for a long time now about how expensive the job hunt will be and how I can possibly afford all of it (fancy resume prints, business clothing, transportation to interviews, getting a driver’s license if I get the job, etc.) and your event was just the biggest sign of relief ever."—Student participant
So last spring, D’Auria jumped into action. An organizer by nature with a relentless can-do attitude, she coordinated with the USC Surplus Store (under Mailing and Material Management Services) to seek out, collect, sort through, curate and staff the clothing event for students.
She sent out word for gently-used clothing that students could use for job interviews. Marshall heeded the call.
“We received the largest donation from Marshall,” she said. “People were very generous in their giving.”
On Feb. 4, the Surplus Store partnered with USC Student Affairs to bring students a free “pop-up shop” experience, allowing them to choose gently up-cycled business clothes for interviews and other professional needs.
The USC bookstore donated bags, rounders and stands. She wrangled snacks.
What they set up was essentially a pop-up shop on the Parkside Lawn, she says. "We recreated a shopping experience with the idea of everyone having a great time.”
There were clothes on racks, new shoes in boxes, baskets of new socks.
“I think more than 150 students came through the event,” said Hong. “It was definitely a big success.”
"Emotionally, that day was the best work experience I've ever had," she said. "Seeing the student's faces when they realized what they were being offered, seeing their appreciation. It felt gratifying.”
One young woman sent an email thanking the organizers, and gave her permission to use it publicly.
“I have been worried for a long time now about how expensive the job hunt will be and how I can possibly afford all of it (fancy resume prints, business clothing, transportation to interviews, getting a driver’s license if I get the job, etc.) and your event was just the biggest sign of relief ever. I actually teared up from happiness when I got home with my new clothing and tried them all on. I felt so beautiful and – for once in my life – ready to tackle this stressful interview time.”
Chalk another win for the Trojan Family.
Until Next Time
The few pieces of clothing that were not taken are being held for the next such event.
“There’s a lot of interest in doing this perhaps twice a year,” said Hong. “But Gretchen and I are looking into whether we can organize another pop-up event this semester, before graduation.”