She Works Hard For The Money: A Campaign Built on Women

November 8, 2021

Before Donna Summer became the face of the 1970s disco scene, she was LaDonna Gaines of Boston, Massachusetts. The daughter of a butcher and a teacher, a sister to six siblings, and a singer in the local church choir, her story is often hidden behind the bright lights, shiny costumes, and rapturous voice. The dreams and ambitions of a gifted child who dropped out of college, struggled with her father’s strict religious ways, and battled low-self esteem and childhood depression, laid the foundation for creating  the very legend that is Donna Summer. She’s defied the odds and exemplified the power of believing in yourself and never giving up — the precise message Broadway Utica is delivering in its latest campaign “She Works Hard For The Money.”

Looking to empower women in the workforce on the heels of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, Broadway Utica selected Empowered Pathway’s Women’s Employment and Resource Center as their “Beyond The Stage” recipient.

For more than 30 years, the Women’s Employment and Resource Center has dedicated their mission to help women successfully enter the local workforce through specialized training programs and one-on-one personal assistance. As a non-for-profit agency designed to help people create self-directed solutions and move forward with their lives through education, advocacy, and empowerment, Broadway Utica has launched a call to the community requesting supply donations, such as notebooks, pens, umbrellas, bus passes, and gas gift cards, between now and the musical’s debut performance on November 23rd. The goal of the campaign is to shine a spotlight on the community’s needs, while drawing attention to local organizations that aid women like Santana Charlotteen and Marion Davis enter and advance in the workforce.

Nineteen-years-old and a single mother of two children, Santana Charlotteen came to the Women’s Employment and Resource Center looking to reframe her life.

“The staff welcomed me without judgment. They didn’t make me feel ashamed or embarrassed to be there. They went right to work, helping me look for employment, but also pushed me to learn fundamental skills, like computer software, customer service, job readiness, and resume writing. Those classes gave me an overall self-confidence I never knew existed,” said Charlotteen.

Compelled to push herself further, Charlotteen began developing exercises for other classes filled with women just like herself, and, with the support of the Women’s Employment and Resource Center, obtained her GED.  Not too long afterward, she landed a job with The Arc, Oneida-Lewis Chapter as a part-time HR clerk.

Charlotteen’s growth was apparent to everyone around her. Within a year, she married her husband and was offered a full-time position with The Arc, where she’s remained for three years. Today, she’s the Risk Management Coordinator and promoter for the Women’s Employment and Resource Center.

After years out of the workforce, Marion Davis sought help at a local temp agency.

“I remember the woman handed me back my application because I’d failed to complete the Excel section. I’d been out of school for years. I didn’t have any knowledge about Microsoft Excel. She told me she couldn’t hire me, but she encouraged me to visit WERC where I could obtain the skills I needed,” Davis said.

The woman was a divorced and a stay-at-home mom who’d found herself in the same boat years prior. Through WERC, she’d obtained the skills she needed to move forward, which was exactly what it did for Davis.

“I didn’t know where I wanted to be, but I knew I needed help getting there. I took a job working as a janitor and began attending classes with WERC in my free time.  The women there mentored me and provided me with the knowledge that I could do anything I wanted, be anything I wanted. All I needed were the tools to be successful.”

Three months later, Davis arranged  a clerical interview, and WERC was there to provide her with an appropriate outfit for the interview.

“The clothing closet was a huge benefit for me. To walk into the room and have decent dress clothes, free of cost, made me feel proud. It gave me that extra boost of confidence I needed. I arrived at the interview dressed up, looking and feeling professional. It changed my attitude the moment I walked out the door.”

Through the years, the closet became  a recycling venue for Davis as she returned and donated her own clothes in exchange for new sizes and seasonal changes.

“Resources like that are imperative. We often think of taking the steps and skills to get the job, but fail to think of the necessary components, like a professional wardrobe, that are essential.”

Now the Human Resource Specialist for a large company, Davis refers other women to the agency. Recently, she held a job fair and bumped into the woman from the temp agency.

“It was great to see her and thank her for her help.  My time with WERC helped me restore myself in the career world after being absent for so long. Today, that same woman who helped me years ago comes to my booth to see how I can help her and her agency. It’s a wonderful progression that wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have the structure and guidance I needed to make it through.”

Interested in making an impact on women’s lives and futures? Empowered Pathways has created a wish list of items people can donate in order to support and maintain its various programs:

  • Day Planners or Spiral Notebooks, Pens, Pencils, Highlighters
  • Gift Cards from Staples (to purchase job search and office supplies)
  • Gas Gift Cards (for transportation to/from work or WERC training)
  • Gift Cards from Josie’s Uniforms & Shoes (New Hartford Shopping Center)
  • Bus Passes (for transportation to/from work or WERC training)
  • Umbrellas (for women who must wait for buses in the rain)
  • Glasses – Readers any strength (many need reading glasses but cannot afford them)
  • Feminine Hygiene Products
  • Shampoo, Soap, Toothbrushes, Tooth Paste, Deodorant (trial size okay)
  • Webcams (for women who have computers without camera capability- needed for Zoom meetings)
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Baby Items: Diapers (large sizes), Formula, Baby Wipes
  • Tote Bags
  • Lunch Bags
  • Travel Mugs

Broadway Utica is accepting donations at their home office, located at 258 Genesee Street in Utica, and during the premier of Summer: Donna Summer Musical. Everyone who donates will receive a $5 off coupon towards a show or merchandise from Broadway Utica. For more information please contact Broadway Utica at 315-624-9444 or visit them online at

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