Dress for Success helps Columbus women climb career ladders:Sold-out crowd celebrates organization, participants and sponsors at "Beyond the Suit" luncheon at Athletic Club.

Dress for Success Columbus held its annual Beyond the Suit luncheon at the Columbus Athletic Club on Friday afternoon. The sold-out luncheon was packed with corporate sponsors and individual donors, as well as DFS Columbus participants and volunteers. Events like the annual Beyond the Suit luncheon generate more than half of the organization's annual revenue.

CEO Vicki Bowen Hewes, Board President Melba Bierdeman and past-President Cheryl Hooker led the program. Bowen Hewes said the goal of DFS Columbus programs is to help women "understand the unwritten rules of the workplace," access professional networks and advance in their career goals.

The luncheon highlighted the ongoing development of career programming at DFS Columbus. DFS Columbus serves women from a variety of backgrounds in different stages of their financial and professional development. The programs reach everyone from single mothers and college students, human trafficking victims and incarcerated women. According to the organization, forty percent of its clients gain employment within 90 days of taking part in career-development programs.

The DFS Columbus Suiting Boutique began outfitting women for job interviews in 2007. DFS Columbus Mentoring Programs began in 2013. This year, DFS Columbus clients took part in the debut Success InSight: Strategies for Winning at Work and Life conference, which was held at the Columbus State Community College Center for Workforce Development. The event exposed many DFS Columbus clients to their first formal conference experience, including panel discussions and professional networking.

Bowen Hewes announced a $2,000 donation from women in the Ohio Reformatory for Women during the luncheon. The donation will fund the DFS Columbus Going Places Network in the reformatory: a job-preparation and financial literacy course for women who are incarcerated or preparing to return home to Franklin County. Women in the reformatory self-organized to fill the funding gap left when a corporate donor ended their sponsorship of the program.

"Where they've been doesn't define who they are," said Hooker in her closing speech.

To access services, volunteer, donate or take part in an upcoming event, visit Columbus.DressForSuccess.org.