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Guiding angels help women get back into working world

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By Ramsey Scott

Women who have been unemployed for a long period of time frequently have trouble re-entering the workforce, because employers are looking for job candidates with recent experience on their resumes. 

It’s a problem that the Littleton store Angel Concept hopes to solve for a few women at a time. 

Angel Concept, at 2510 W. Main St. downtown, is a boutique clothing and home-furnishings store with an unusual mission: to provide women who’ve been out of the workforce a chance to get back in it, said founder Sue Hosier. 

“We were looking for a way to assist women who were unemployed for a while and maybe previously had made some poor decisions,” Hosier said. “They learn everything they would need to know to work at a store like Macy’s.”

Groups like the social services nonprofit Family Tree refer women to the store, who then work there part-time for three months. The women, who are paid for the 15 to 20 hours a week they work, also get training in everything from operating a cash register to putting together a resume and interviewing for jobs. 

Being repeatedly passed over for jobs an applicant is qualified to do can erode the confidence needed to land a job. That’s something Sandra Rodriguez knows all too well. 

Rodriguez is halfway through her three-month stint at Angel Concept after being referred to the store by Family Tree. A mother of two, Rodriguez said her confidence was at an all-time low after a year of being turned down for every job she interviewed for. 

“Working here, it’s brought out a lot of confidence in me I lost in the last year,” Rodriguez said. “Before I was being shot down for interviews, and it destroyed my self-confidence. (The staff) here, they tell you how great of a job you’re doing. It uplifts you.”

Rodriguez recently interviewed for a position with a retail chain. She is still waiting to hear back, but she knows she put her best foot forward during her meeting with potential bosses.

“Before, when I wouldn’t get a job, I’d just say, ‘What’s wrong with me? What am I doing wrong?’” Rodriguez said. “This time, I went in with my head held high. Either way, I wasn’t going to walk out of there without my head up. If I don’t get the job now, I know it’s not because of me.”

 

‘The best employee you can be’

While the job at Angel Concept might be uplifting, Hosier said the work isn’t easy. Women who are in training at the store are held to a high standard, she said. 

“You may think I’m strict or a little mean at times. It’s because I care for you,” Hosier said. “We want you to be the best employee you can be when you leave.”

Hosier and a group of volunteers — most from the Conifer and Evergreen area, who met Hosier through the Conifer Newcomers and Neighbors group — work with the women and provide them not only with professional advice but an encouraging work environment. 

“It was such a great concept that I wanted to help get it off the ground,” said volunteer Ann Cobb from Conifer.

The store donates 5 percent of each sale to one of several charities that the buyer can choose. If someone donates an item, she can choose a charity to receive 10 percent of the final sale, said store manager Jill Lovell. 

Lovell said many of the items in the store are unusual and often have a connection to groups helping women in far-off places like Afghanistan and Nepal. 

Hosier, a retired nurse, said she wanted to give back to the community after moving from the Midwest to Conifer. She decided to help women who are struggling to get by because of bad choices or bad luck. 

“It’s very rewarding. You realize how lucky you are. Some people have had it really hard in their lives and made bad decisions,” Hosier said. “They’re working hard to change their life and have a greater life for themselves and their kids.”

Rodriguez said it all comes down to making sure she can provide for her two kids. 

“They look up to Mama, and I refuse to let them down,” Rodriguez said. 

 

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine.