March 9, 2016, Bloomfield Hills, MI – Breaking records for attendance and donations, the JVS eighth annual Trade Secrets dinner celebrated the tenacity and resilience of two women who overcame tremendous obstacles to achieve success in the workplace. The JVS event, on March 9 at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Hills, was headlined by Linda Schlesinger-Wagner, founder of skinnytees™, and honored Felicia Militello, a participant in JVS’s Women to Work program.
Proceeds from the fundraiser support JVS women’s jobs programs including the Women to Work Program, which helps women enter the job market after difficult life transitions.
“Trade Secrets is all about supporting, empowering and encouraging women,” said Leah Rosenbaum, JVS president and CEO. “Linda Schlesinger-Wagner, down to her last pennies after a divorce, took a risk on herself and an idea. Her success story shows the power of determination.”
Like the lead character in the blockbuster film, “Joy,” Schlesinger-Wagner’s success skyrocketed with sales of her skinnytees™ through a home shopping network. After her original tank top debuted in a small boutique in Brighton, skinnytees™ has grown into an $8 million clothing line featuring tees, tops, skirts, dresses, bandeaus, leggings and active wear sold across the globe in retail stores, online and on QVC.
“Today, Linda is more than a successful entrepreneur,” said Rosenbaum. “She is a generous philanthropist, and she has made empowering other women a priority in her life.”
Felicia Militello, of Commerce Township, was honored with the JVS Women to Work Award at Trade Secrets. She was referred to the Women to Work Program through HAVEN, which provides services to victims of domestic violence.
When her 20-year marriage ended in a difficult divorce, Militello needed to provide for herself and her three children. Though she had maintained a real estate license, Militello hadn’t worked in years. Feeling isolated and unequipped to re-enter the workforce, she credits the Women to Work program with helping her transform self-doubt into confidence.
“I had so many negative beliefs about myself,” she said. “Women to Work activities were helpful in building up my confidence and helping me to see that I have skills and traits that are important in the workplace.”
Through the process of uncovering her marketable skills, updating her resume and practicing interviews, Militello’s confidence rebounded. Today, she enjoys challenging work as an escrow closer for Best Homes Title Agency, Farmington Hills.
The Women to Work Program has helped thousands of women like Militello during its 43-year history. An information meeting will be held on April 26 at JVS in Southfield. For more information, visit www.jvshumanservices.org/women.
Trade Secrets was co-chaired by Elizabeth Elkus, of Bloomfield Hills, and Kristen Gross and Jodi Neff, both of Franklin, and raised more than $250,000. The monies will provide career counseling, job search training and skills assessment to women of all ages, experience levels and backgrounds who must find employment to support their families following divorce or the disability, death or unemployment of their spouse or partner.
JVS is an award-winning human services organization with four main locations in metropolitan Detroit that helps people realize life’s potential through a variety of programs to maximize their self-sufficiency. The agency helps job seekers jumpstart their job search, provides meaningful programs for people with disabilities and helps seniors remain active and engaged.