Dress for Success Indianapolis Provides Computer Literacy, Tech Access with Opus Foundation® Grant

We are passionate about supporting nonprofits that help people chart a better course in life.

The Opus Foundation®​ has awarded Dress for Success Indianapolis (DFSI) a $25,000 grant to do just that. The grant will fund a computer literacy training program to help lift women whose employment was affected by the pandemic out of poverty by securing living-wage jobs.

“There aren't many organizations that prepare women to secure professional jobs by providing workwear attire, interview preparation and comprehensive wrap-around services," said Shayla Pinner, Director of Marketing and Development at DFSI. “In fact, we are the only organization in Central Indiana with this model."

More than Dress

DFSI is one of 147 Dress for Success affiliates in 25 countries worldwide. They've helped more than 18,000 women through three core programs: suiting, a career development center and a professional women's group.

“What comes to mind when a lot of people hear our name, Dress of Success, is an organization that provides interview clothing for women," said Julie Petr, Executive Director of DFSI. “But we do so much more. We also provide robust professional training and support services for overcoming issues that can become barriers to self-sufficiency like transportation, childcare and healthcare services." 

“As a small nonprofit with an operating budget of about half a million dollars, a $25,000 grant is substantial. In addition, we are coming off of a very rough 2020 when many funders shifted their dollars to urgent needs, like food and shelter. The Opus Foundation grant is truly a game-changer for us. We've never had funding for this kind of training, and it couldn't have come at a better time." 

Changing the Trajectory

Due to the pandemic, 90% of DFSI clients have been impacted by the pandemic in some way. Without computer skills and access, many have been unable to apply for professional jobs and remain living in poverty.

DFSI is changing their trajectory.

This grant will help to close the technology gap by funding computer literacy and digital skills training for these women seeking employment.

DFSI is partnering with Ivy Tech, Eleven Fifty Academy and Indy Women in Tech to develop the curriculum. Recently, DFSI received a donation of 200 computers. They will buy laptops, software and licensing and will pay for program materials and transportation assistance. Clients who attend at least three program workshops will receive a computer.

During the first year, DFSI will provide computer literacy training to 125 women with little to no prior computer knowledge, and 50 women will receive specialized computer training, such as Microsoft Office certification.

“We've known for quite some time that there's a significant technology barrier for many of our clients – and it has widened and deepened during the pandemic," said Petr.

“Imagine: Without access to a computer, how would you even apply for a professional job? Or participate in a Zoom interview from home? Or research businesses and industries so you can present yourself in a better light? Lack of technology puts people at a tremendous disadvantage for finding work. We are so pleased the Opus Foundation is helping us reduce the technology gap for families in our community."

Living Wage vs. Poverty

DFSI's definition of success is when a woman seeking employment gets a job with a living wage, so she can become economically independent.

“We did a study that measured what one of our clients – an average woman with one child in daycare – needs to live," said Petr. “We estimated her average expenses, including the bare minimum needed for an apartment, transportation and food. She has to make at least $20.69 an hour just to break even – and that factors in government assistance programs. If she makes only $12 or $15 an hour, she will remain in poverty indefinitely."

“We can work with women. We can provide them with professional interview attire. We can help them with resumes and prepare them for interviews. But if they can't do basic things like send emails and open attachments, they're not likely to get a professional, living wage job."

“This grant is transformative and will help us break barriers we weren't able to break before."


The Opus Foundation is building community for a better tomorrow by supporting projects and programs that make our communities better places to live, work and raise families through grants to nonprofit organizations in the areas of early childhood education, youth development, workforce development, community revitalization and pressing/emerging needs. Read more about the Foundation's work.