Diva/Divo Home
Newsletter/ Special Events SignUp          
About Us
Mission Statement
DIVA/DIVO is a non-profit organization dedicated to the empowerment of people in need by providing free work-appropriate clothing, mentoring programs and other employment-related resources, all designed to assist them in securing employment. We at DIVA/DIVO are committed to restoring and maintaining the dignity and independence of all our clients.

History of Diva

Michele Billingsley is the director of DIVA/DIVO.  She has a degree in social work with an emphasis in community organization. Michele is responsible for the launching of the first clothes closet in Wisconsin. The Woman’s Clothes Closet (WCC) opened its doors in La Crosse, Wisconsin in 1996.   When W2 reform was tested in Wisconsin the needs that arose from the implementation of that system were many.  Child care, training, job readiness programs, transportation and clothes for women re-entering the work force or for many, entering for the first time. 

The Clothes closet is still up and running in La Crosse and has been used as a model for many other clothes closets throughout the state.

A few years later when Michele returned to her native Milwaukee, she really wanted to continue her work with women in need.  After researching the existing closets in Milwaukee, she found that the demand was greater than the resources that were in place. The need for another closet was evident.   The Squirm Foundation, at that time, was looking to add to its small list of accomplishments and asked Michele to start a clothes closet in Milwaukee under the umbrella of the Squirm Foundation’s 501c3.  She accepted the challenge. With a modest salary and not much of a budget, she started her journey.

Michele approached Meta House of Milwaukee and proposed a collaboration of efforts.  At the time, Meta house had a small clothes closet (DIVA) that was used exclusively for their clients.  Michele offered to take over the direction of the closet and to expand it so that it would be opened to Meta House clients along with all women in need throughout Milwaukee.

DIVA expanded its clientele, services and space when it moved to an old school building.  This space was shared by the Hmong American Women Association and through their generosity; the first year and a half of DIVA in its new home was rent-free.   DIVA’s expansion meant that it could serve all agencies and organizations that worked with women to prepare them to enter or re-enter the job market.

DIVA established itself as a critical final step in the job-readiness programs.  Women come to DIVA just before they begin interviewing.  It is at DIVA that they find things to wear but just as important it is at DIVA where they find encouragement and moral support. After 2.5 years on Vliet Street, DIVA wanted to expand and set up a second location to reach women on the south side of the city.  Christ Church, UCC’s Social Concerns committee was approached and subsequently approved the request to house a second location.

During this time, DIVA found itself with rising rents, a space in need of repairs and a location that was no longer serviced by the county transit system.  It was time to find a new home, not just a second location.

In 2008, Christ Church, located on Oklahoma Ave in Bay View wrapped its arms around DIVA by opening their hearts and doors to DIVA.  They provided an incredible space, unwavering support and an ongoing belief in the services provided for those in need.  This current location provides an accessible location as well as a space that can accommodate the influx of donations and clothing that is needed for DIVA to continue its successful mission.  

It is at this current location that DIVA decided to launch its counterpart, DIVO.

History of Divo

DIVO was launched in fall of 2008 by Michele Billingsley (Director of DIVA) and Jerry Westmoreland (a truly devoted volunteer).  Together they took what was once a concept and turned it into reality.  There are men in need that are re-entering the workforce and they, too, need work appropriate clothing.  DIVO provides clothing and, as with DIVA, also provides encouragement and support to its clients. 

DIVO in essence is also supporting the efforts of DIVA since men in need who are sent back into the workforce help with the burden of family economic support that so many women tackle alone.  By providing clothing and support for men as they go back into the productive world of employment, DIVO is setting the standard for other organizations to follow.  The first men’s clothing closet of its kind, it is growing quickly.  The demand for the services it provides is great.  With the continued support of organizations, businesses and individuals, DIVO will continue to grow and to reach out to as many men as possible.  It is proud to be a part of the process that restores the dignity, confidence and independence for men in need.

The boutique atmosphere of DIVA/DIVO is unique and adds to the quality of the service that is provided to all clients that walk through the door.

DIVA and DIVO helps women in need, men in need which in turn helps families in need.    Women helping women.  Men helping men.  People helping people.

The rest of the needs of DIVA/DIVO are currently being met through the generosity of individuals, organizations, community efforts and volunteers.