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Yankees and Hope Week visit Career Gear, providing much...

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Yanks fit Honorees with new suits, applaud success stories

As part of the 6th year of Hope Week, the Yankees visited Career Gear, an organization that provides professional clothing to men in need who are looking to enter the business world. 

But as the men who go through the program will tell you, men like Rodney Gordon, it’s about much more than a suit and tie.

“They gave me the ability to learn to give back to other people, and that’s the biggest lesson you can learn from any organization like that, is how to give back.”

Career Gear was founded in 1999 by Gary Field, a former director of services for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, and David Woolard, a Broadway costume designer. Some men may come in simply looking for just a suit, and back in 1999 that was exactly how Career Gear began helping these men. Rodney Gordon had recently spent some time in prison, and was looking for a way to support himself.

“I did a little bit of time, and came in looking for a suit for a job interview because I was looking for a job. And I came in and I made an appointment and they said ‘No problem!’ and they hooked me up with a nice suit. I went back out and I got the job.”

Over the past 15 years, the Career Gear has grown into something much more valuable than providing a suit for a job interview. Gordon knows that the effect that the group has had on him has gone much further than that.

“It has helped me to become a different human being, a better person, look at life differently. There’s so many positives that I will take from career gear, things that I will never forget as long as I live.

Career Gear provides job readiness programs, mentoring sessions, and the life skills necessary to succeed on their own. Career Gear’s strong support system is something success story Dion Thompson has found especially important in his transition to self-sufficiency.

“This is a real sense of community here, there’s an underlying golden thread of care and concern, which is definitely a 2 way street.”

The concept of a “2 way street” and “giving back” was something that was touched on by all of the Career Gear Honorees. Coss Marte has found his own way to give back to the community, after an extremely unique journey to and through the program. Just a few years ago, Marte was arrested in New York City as a drug kingpin, making what he estimates to be close to 2 million dollars a year. Marte was obese when he got into prison, and after he landed behind bars he decided it was time to change.

“I was overweight, high cholesterol, was on medication, was told that I was gonna die in 5 years in prison because of my lifestyle. And this is where I began moving and said ‘I’m not gonna die in prison, I’m gonna start working out,’ and in the 9 by 6 cell which was all I had to work with, I managed to lose the 70 pounds in 6 months. I started a trend in prison, which made me come home and just gave it out as a hobby, started doing it, then developed it as a business plan.

That “hobby” turned business plan became Coss Athletics, which through the help of Career Gear is now his very own personal training company.

“It’s been growing organically now, and hopefully with all this media coverage, it’ll be blown up.”

But the media weren’t the only ones there to hear the stories of the Career Gear honorees. The 6 men chosen as Hope Week honorees were treated to the surprise of a lifetime…getting fitted for a suit by one of the New York Yankees, as Derek Jeter, Jacoby Ellsbury, Alonso Soriano, Hiroki Kuroda, and Brian Roberts showed up ready to take the men’s measurements.

“I was always a Yankee fan, Paul O’Neill was one of my [favorites], Tino Martinez was my favorite player, and just meeting Derek and Soriano, I fell like fainting right now.”

As happy as Marte was to have the Yankees there, the team was just as impressed with the success of the men being honored, including the captain himself.

“I think this is what this week is about. You get a chance to recognize people that are giving back to the community and for us it’s fun to be a part of. You hear stories but to actually come out and meet the guys and the wonderful people that are doing these things sort of hits home for us.”

Yankee Brian Roberts may be new to Hope week, but the veteran knows the importance of going out into the community and helping out.

“I think [professional athletes] have a responsibility to the cities that we play in and the cities that we live in to have a positive impact off the field. We’ve been given such an incredible platform and such a great opportunity to obviously play a game but also affect and impact people in a positive way.”

Roberts was also very impressed by the job that Career Gear does.

“It goes so far beyond a suit which is so cool. The mentoring aspect, the workshops, teaching them how to have financial responsibility, it’s awesome to hear these guys stories.”

While the opportunity to be fitted for a new suit by a Yankee is something special, the real reward is the ability to give back, something that hits home for Coss Marte.

“Just seeing me from what I was doing before, and the guys that are probably on that path still see that there’s another way. I give them hope.”

And giving hope, is truly, what hope week is all about.