Heartland Community College student Imani Sanchez, who heads up Phi Beta Lambda's Suit Up Closet project, shows an outfit on one of the mobile racks on the campus in Normal. Students can use clothes from the "closet" for interviews and internships.
Imani Sanchez, a Heartland Community College student, looks through a box of ties donated to the Suit Up Closet, a Phi Beta Lambda project she chairs that helps students who need professional clothing for an interview or internship.
Imani Sanchez, a Heartland Community College student and member of the Phi Beta Lambda student business organization, shows the storage room in the college's library used for the Suit Up Closet. Sanchez said the collection includes a lot of men's suits but could use more women's business attire. The closet also has shoes and accessories.
Imani Sanchez, a Heartland Community College student, describes the Phi Beta Lambda Suit Up Closet project she chairs while standing in the library room that is used for storing some of the professional attire available for students who need them for job interviews or internships.
NORMAL — A small room at the Heartland Community College library is stuffed with clothes, shoes and accessories. Imani Sanchez walked in, waved her hand with a smile and said, “This is our house.”
If it looks a bit like a closet, that's OK, because it is home base for the “Suit Up Closet” project run by Phi Beta Lambda, Heartland's student business organization. Sanchez, a Normal sophomore in professional office administration and business technology, is chair of the project.
Suit Up Closet provides students with access to professional attire they can use for job interviews, internships and even classroom presentations.
There are no formal check-out procedures, said Sanchez. Students take what they need and return it when they're done.
“We keep it pretty anonymous,” said Sanchez. “We keep it on an honor system.”
In addition to the “closet” at the library, rolling racks at four other campus locations increase visibility and ease of access, said Sanchez.
Linda Lambert, a faculty adviser to Phi Beta Lambda, said the idea began in 2013 through a project with the Women in Technology at State Farm. But that was only an annual project and the college found students needed such assistance at other times of the year, she said.
With the Suit Up Closet, items are available throughout the school year.
“This is a student need but it's student driven,” said Lambert. The project not only helps the students who use the clothing, it also provides real-world organizational skills for students such as Sanchez who are running the program, she said.
The mission of Phi Beta Lambda is service, education and progress, said Lambert.
“We like project-based learning,” she said. “This takes what students learn in the classroom and applies that to the professional world.”
Donations have come from faculty, staff, churches, other organizations and individuals. OSF HealthCare Saint James-John Albrecht Medical Center donated scrubs for health sciences students who need them for internships and clinical work.
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“We appreciate the community support,” said Lambert. "It's amazing."
Sanchez said donated items have been in good condition and some still had their tags attached.
Clothing is rotated on the various racks so students have a better idea of what is available and to keep things fresh, said Lambert.
“We're trying to get a boutique atmosphere,” she said.
Sanchez said the collection includes a lot of men's suits but could use more women's business attire. The closet also has shoes and accessories.
“At one point, we had 300 ties,” she said.
Lambert said she has had students come up to her and tell her they got a job after wearing clothing from the Suit Up Closet.
“They feel good going into an interview,” she said.
Sanchez keeps an eye on the condition of clothing. If something needs cleaning, she often takes it home to wash it herself.
“I'm really dedicated to this,” she said.
Sanchez graduates in May but she and Lambert hope to see the project continue. About 20 students attended the first meeting of the academic year for Phi Beta Lambda and Lambert said the group usually picks up more members as the year goes on.
Anyone interested in donating new or gently used business attire or scrubs can take them to the library in room 1511 of the Student Commons Building on Heartland Community College's Normal campus, 1500 W. Raab Road, during regular library hours. Anyone with questions can contact Lambert at Linda.Lambert@heartland.edu.
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