Low-income job seekers dress the part thanks to Oakland nonprofit

OAKLAND — For six years, Vernon Robinson wore the same clothes: a prison outfit. These days, the ex-con is using the slick style that made him a successful hustler to inspire and stylize clients who are one business suit away from landing a life-changing job.

A motivational speaker, the Richmond native volunteers his time at Wardrobe for Opportunity, helping clients find outfits in the nonprofit’s inventory just as he did upon his release about four years ago.

“They see something in themselves they haven’t seen before,” he said of the feeling people get when they try on the professional-looking clothes. “It’s that potential that I try to resurrect. We all have it. Sometimes you just need to fan it.”

Founded in 1995, Wardrobe For Opportunity helps low-income men and women build a career — offering help on professional attire, learning interview skills and financial literacy seminars — reaching an estimated 30,000 people over the years.

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