Dressed to Impress with Raiders’ Closet

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By Carrie Beth Catron

We all know that access to higher education here in Murfreesboro is within our reach.  We are all very fortunate to be so very close to a number of educational opportunities, whether right out of high school or heading back after another career path, and with new funding availability, cost is not as prohibitive as it once was.  However, once the educational process has been fulfilled, and graduation is around the corner, students must find a way to put all of the hard work they put into their degree to good use.  They start the job hunt: applications, phone calls, and interviews.  This is a process with which Dr. Virginia Hemby is all too familiar.

Dr. Hemby found herself in a similar situation of many students today, working through college to support her daily needs, and not having much to spend in excess. She was graduating as a nontraditional student from the University of Southern Mississippi as a young, single mother. She had successfully pinched pennies through her education so that she and her young son had all of their needs met, and she always kept in mind that she was working toward making a better life for them, so it was all worth it.  Upon her graduation, she was ready to take on the world, but when she was granted an interview, she realized that she didn’t have proper business attire for the interview.  She states, “I’ll never forget the feeling I felt when I had to ask my then boyfriend (he’s now her husband) to borrow money so I could buy a suit.”  Luckily, he was more than happy to help, she got the job, and she’s using her experience to benefit MTSU students on a daily basis today.

The impact of her personal story came rushing back to Dr. Hemby in 2012 when she was fortunate enough to benefit from a substantial weight loss process.  She found herself with a closet full of business suits that she could no longer wear. She discovered that she was having a very difficult time “getting rid” of the clothing because of the attachment she had to professional wear after her earlier experience. After a chat with the Secretary in the Business College and the interim Dean at the time, the idea for Raider’s Closet was born.

Dr. Hemby started the project quite humbly, cleaning out a closet in the department to store the clothing she collected, and with a small yet impactful donation from Dr. Burton of $400, she purchased racks on which to hang the clothing.  It didn’t take long for that small closet to overflow, even though the “marketing plan” was mainly word of mouth for gathering donations, and it was a struggle to “shop” inside. Fortunately, with the growth of the university and building of new facilities, the Career Development Center on campus had a larger space next door where they, with the support of Dr. Sells, are happy to call Raiders’ Closet a friendly neighbor.

Now, the room is set up much like a shopping venue, with racks sorted by gender and type of clothing, thanks to many donations from local professionals.  Students can stop by or set up an appointment to “shop” for clothing at no cost. Many students are forever grateful for the opportunity to successfully put their best “nonverbal” foot forward when seeking an internship or first job post-graduation, all while knowing that the attire is theirs to keep for future needs, as well. Dr. Hemby is also thankful for monetary donations that can be used when students come in and wear an uncommon size that she may not have available.  Through donations, she was able to provide a 6’7’ gentleman his first ever suit after a lengthy online search.  She strives to provide every student with the tools that he/she needs to succeed.

If you’d like to support this truly community fulfilling project, you can drop off your clean, gently used, professional clothing items at the Keathley University Center, Room 327.  Dr. Virginia Hemby can be contacted at (615) 898-2902 or (615) 962-0944 or virginia.hemby-grubb@mtsu.edu.