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Dress for Success, Fantastic Sam's open mini salon in Denver, helping unemployed get a job

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Rhonda Speers's story should be familiar those who've gone through hard times. After being let go from her temp job, she was involved in a car wreck. That led to surgery and slow recovery in the shadow of a crumbling economy.

As such, she's been out of a job more than a year. But on Tuesday, her situation improved considerably -- thanks to Dress for Success.

Speers, who lives in Thornton, went into Dress for Success, 1510 High Street, expecting to get a haircut from stylists employed at Fantastic Sam's salon, as part of a new partnership to make job-seeking women appear more professional in job interviews.

"It's been over a year since I've had a haircut, but it's been probably 21 years since I've had my hair's been cut this short," Speers says with some embarrassment, noting that her family -- namely her mother and kids -- will be surprised, since they haven't seen her with short hair.

Speers has been out of job since January 2010 and is looking for a position in medical billing and coding.

She was in for a surprise Tuesday morning, when a gaggle of media, including two television cameras, also crammed in the "mini salon" -- a renovated men's room at Dress for Success -- to document her haircut.

"I was real nervous, but I feel wonderful now," Speers says. "No, I did not know about the cameras. When I got up this morning, I thought I was coming for a haircut. That was it."

While dressed in her black pin-striped pant-suit (donated by Dress for Success) and with her new hairstyle, Speers says she's ready for a job in the medical billing and coding field.

"It took about twenty minutes. I tried everything on," Speers says of her outfit, one of dozens on the racks on the second floor of Dress for Success' High Street location.

Donna Deteau, executive director for the five-year-old Dress for Success, says the agency met with Fantastic Sams in February, and the salon donated the furniture and paid for renovation costs. Between 200 and 250 more women will receive haircuts this year from Fantastic Sam's 400 area stylists, who rotate in and out of the Dress for Success agency.

In addition to providing women with a professional wardrobe and new 'do, Deteau says women learn interviewing skills -- "grasp" during a handshake -- as well to always write a thank-you letter to potential employers. More than 1,300 women go through the program a year.

As for Rhonda, if you're looking to hire her, contact Dress for Success at 303-832-1889 or at http://www.dressforsuccess.org.

More on the economy in Cafe Society: "Friday Store offers discounted groceries and thrives in a tough economy."

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