Fashion-driven philanthropy

Posted on February 20, 2016

Glynis Bell has a passion for fashion and a heart for helping women

Fashion as a tool for changing lives, that’s her goal. For 15 years, Glynis Bell ’06 has dedicated her schooling, her volunteer work and much of her career to connecting what she loves to do with the change she wants to make in the world.

“I’ve always had a passion for fashion and a philanthropy for helping women,” she says. Glynis is doing what many would say is the key to happiness: discovering what she loves and making it her life’s work.

A master’s degree in Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies (CARS) has been a critical launching point. “I had never considered going to grad school,” she says. “But there came a point at which it was very personal for me to do so. I felt that if I put an education behind my passion, it would at some point align itself, and I would be unstoppable.”

While earning her degree, Glynis worked fulltime at HanesBrands (then Sara Lee). She was also raising a family and pouring countless hours into establishing the Winston-Salem chapter of Dress for Success, a nonprofit that helps underrepresented women develop job-seeking skills and prepare for career entry or transition. The organization offers everything from resume writing and mock interviews to networking and tips for how to dress for success, even providing career apparel. She calls it her “work of the heart.” After successfully founding the chapter, Glynis served as executive director for 18 months.

She recalls a particularly powerful moment for one of the women she helped serve. “She was a single mother with an associate’s degree and had been referred to us by the Department of Social Services (DSS). She was one of those people who’d been down on her luck and needed some support.”

The woman ended up getting an interview at DSS, the very entity that referred her to Dress for Success. And then, she got the job. But the success story doesn’t end there. One day, Glynis received a note from her.

“She told me that she appreciated what I done to help her and that she wanted to give back.” Glynis arranged for her to speak at several Dress for Success events so that others could see the life-changing effect of the organization. A few months later, Glynis received another thank you letter, this time with a $100 money order donation.

“That was a light bulb moment for me. I realized our clients could become our best advocates. I saw how powerful that circle is. We didn’t impact just her. When you help a woman, you help a family and a community. It’s a ripple effect.”

“The CARS program taught me life lessons in tenacity. Higher education is about how willing you are to overcome the obstacles that are between you and the finish line. That lesson was truly valuable when it came to starting an organization from scratch.”

Now Glynis is passing the torch and looking at her next big project. She is working with a publisher on a book about developing young women’s self-esteem through dress.

“My experience with Dress for Success helped me realize that young women are in need of support as well. It’s like we have lost our keepers—those mothers and grandmothers and mentors who would not allow us to go out of house dressed inappropriately. We need to demonstrate for our young girls how to present themselves properly so that their attire is career professional, not prohibitive.”

Glynis was interviewed by WFMY on the topic, and her book “A Young Lady’s Guide to Inspiration and Positive Self Image” is nearing completion. She is currently working with a publisher with plans to have the book complete in a few months’ time.

“My platform is about empowering young women and girls to be the best they can be.” In fact, she is starting her own motivational speaking business around that focus. She calls it GBI — Glynis Bell Integrated. The motto for the brand is “Giving Back Intentionally.”

“When you love your work and you believe in philanthropy and service, you invest your heart in it. The value is in the lives that you touch and the difference you make along the way.”


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