A nonprofit career development organization announced Friday that it will lay off the majority of its staff following the “double whammy” of a fire that destroyed its Irvine headquarters last month and the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
“This double whammy we’re going through — the fire that destroyed our building in February and the recent COVID-19 pandemic that has caused significant economic hardships to so many businesses — has hit us very hard as well,” the organization’s founder and chief executive officer, Jerri Rosen, wrote in an email to supporters, in which she noted that Working Wardrobes has had to make the “most … painful decision of all by laying off a majority of our staff.”
Rosen noted that the organization had been “as generous as possible to our staff, extending a number of important benefits to help lessen the burden” and that the employees are “simply being impacted by something beyond their control.”
The number of employees that will be affected by the layoffs was not immediately available.
Working Wardrobes’ 10 team leaders will remain, according to the organization.
In a video posted on YouTube, Rosen said she has never had a more difficult message that she needed to send in her three decades as head of Working Wardrobes. She said the organization is “going to put all of our services virtually” and vowed that the organization would rebuild.
Working Wardrobes’ headquarters — filled with racks, bins and boxes of thousands of jackets, pants, shirts, blouses, ties, shoes, jewelry and accessories — was destroyed in the Feb. 2 blaze at the 22,000-square-foot building in the 1800 block of Kettering Street.
The organization also lost its career center where clients could access computers to research and apply for jobs online, training rooms and corporate office.
Orange County Fire Authority investigators estimated the loss of the building at $10 million, and $2 million in contents, according to OCFA Capt. Tony Bommarito.
Goodwill subsequently offered the organization open space it had at a building on East Saint Andrew Place in Santa Ana.
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