When Houston's Dress for Success started in 1998, co-founders Nancy Levicki and Susie Cunningham had no idea what they were getting themselves into.
"I wasn't looking for a job. I was looking for a passion," said Levicki, president of the organization and a former couture buyer for Sakowitz.
Thirteen years later, the organization helps 5,000 women each year through its suiting program and Professional Women's Group. It has outgrown its home in northwest Houston. Now, it will become the first national Dress for Success affiliate to buy its own land and build its own building.
On Tuesday, founders, donors and committee members broke ground on the new facility in Upper Kirby, celebrating the occasion with mimosas and Freebirds burritos, storytelling and shovel-wielding.
"I wasn't looking for a job. I was looking for a passion," Levicki said.
Kelli Blanton, who co-chairs the capital campaign committee, announced that the fundraising goal was 97 percent complete: Dress for Success has raised $6.1 million for its new facility, designed pro-bono by Zeigler Cooper Architects.
The LEED-certified space will allow the organization to expand its programming, increase its storage and reach an even larger portion of women in need. It will continue to offer mentoring, scholarships, financial literacy and health literacy programs and will add childcare to its options. The nonprofit's officials said the new location will be safer and more convenient for public transportation access, and just a 17-minute commute from downtown. The building is tentatively set to be completed by next April.
Lead donors Joan and Stanford Alexander, representatives from the Houston Endowment and the J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation, and other contributors listened as Levicki applauded her staff and recounted success stories of Dress for Success alumni, who were also present, lending real names and faces to the good that the organization does.
"This is a dream come true," said advisory board member Julia Wright.