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Dress for Success Western Massachusetts Celebrates Staff Achievements

SPRINGFIELD — Dress for Success Western Massachusetts (DFSWM) announced achievements by all three of its staff members. Their commitment to empowering women to attain economic independence has made the organization a standout among 144 Dress for Success Worldwide affiliates, and has grown the organization in spite of challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Executive Director Margaret Tantillo is one of only 16 executive directors from around the world invited to join the inaugural Dress for Success Worldwide Affiliate Advisory Council. Representing the Northeastern U.S., Tantillo will give input to determine how Dress for Success will move forward and provide support throughout the affiliate network. According to Worldwide, “as an established affiliate with solid programming, we feel that Margaret’s participation in the council will bring unique insights that can benefit the entire organization.”

DFSWM does, in fact, have solid programming. In addition to its signature interview suiting, it has graduated 11 cohorts from its Foot in the Door workforce-development program in under six years, and is currently launching the 12th class. In less than three years, the Margaret Fitzgerald Mentorship Program has quadrupled the number of mentees paired with professional women in the community. DFSWM has also established a Professional Women’s Group to support participants looking to advance their careers and gain leadership skills. And in response to the needs of local women during COVID, it has established a digital-literacy coaching program that has provided more than 400 hours of one-on-one learning.

Overseeing this advancement is Jess Roncarati-Howe, who has been promoted to director of Programs and Operations. Having been hired in January 2020 as a part-time program coordinator, Roncarati-Howe quickly advanced, expanding programming, fostering community relationships, and responding to the needs of local women seeking gainful employment during and post-pandemic. As the former executive director of the Greater Chicopee Chamber of Commerce and the AIDS Foundation of Western Massachusetts, she is uniquely qualified to develop programs that target the needs of the local workforce while meeting participants wherever they are in their lives.

The overall success of DFSWM would not be possible without its more than 100 consistently active volunteers. This group of women supporting women is led by Volunteer Engagement Manager Diane Jacobs, who brings a distinct combination of facilities management, event coordination, and office oversight experience to the role.

Having joined the staff in September of 2019, Jacobs has established structure, enthusiasm, and a culture of gratitude that ensure an ever-growing roster of committed volunteers. Most recently, she has led the Volunteer Engagement Committee to the completion of a volunteer handbook that has been recognized as a resource by Dress for Success affiliates across the globe.

She has also, over the last two years, coordinated the largest and most successful tag sales in the organization’s history and brought DFSWM to the table for initiatives such as United Way of the Pioneer Valley Women’s Leadership Council’s Power of the Purse and the Suited for Growth program in collaboration with Follow My Steps and Bay Path University.

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