I returned tonight to Dress for Success Morris County to share in its December monthly networking meeting (part two of the three-step process to help women in need pursue an independent life). DFSMC hosts this monthly meeting for the women, to have a chance to stay connected with friends (I was told that some have been coming for at least eight years) and to feel empowered to continue moving in a positive direction. It's an evening that includes dinner, an informational keynote speaker and babysitting for their children. What I witnessed was an overwhelming outpouring of love and uplifting energy.

I arrived just in time to see the women finishing dinner and enjoying each others' company. Everyone looked polished and professional, as they wore outfits that they had selected from their suiting and styling session with a DFSMC volunteer. But what was most noticeable were their genuine smiles being among friends and supporters. I met Simone, who told me that she had just landed a job and "felt like a queen!" To Simone, this job means freedom. "When I first came to Dress for Success Morris County I had no confidence. Now, I am full of confidence and this new job is power." Similarly, Nancy described her remarkable transformation: "I had given up on myself and now, I feel like a professional again. By coming here - they give you anything you need - you get over your negative feelings and find your strength again."

With a warm introduction, speaker Ceylone Boothe-Grooms took the floor; from the moment she spoke she made a connection with the audience. Ceylone's message rang true for these women, all of whom like Simone and Nancy have had much to overcome: Believe in yourself. In Ceylone's words, "We are women. By design we are fierce and fabulous! Confidence is powerful!" Perhaps Ceylone struck a cord with everyone when she told her own story; growing up in The Bronx in an environment filled more with drugs than dreams. She was forced to leave college early to work and help support her family. But she had strong parents who saw her potential and she herself began to dream big. It was then that she decided to hold her head high and change her thought process. By chance, she landed her first job in Alexander's Department Store and later advanced to Macy's as a makeup artist, all because of this belief in her dream and her unwillingness to give up. Today she is a national make-up artist and image consultant, performer, speaker, and former Mrs. New Jersey America (2011).

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She was as if a spiritual leader, and the women reacted with applause and appreciation. There was something so moving about Ceylone's message: first, believe in yourself and then, give yourself the best chance for success by dressing the part. When she finished, she answered makeup questions and provided makeup lessons.

I think we were all transformed tonight.

What do you think?

Check out Melissa's blog, Speaking of Fashion