Naming a business often is as simple as selecting the surname of the owner.
When she founded Bridge Insurance Group in 2013, Lynn Doehring went a different route.
For the South Strabane Township resident, “Bridge” works as a metaphor for her transition from working for another agency to starting her own, and for the path that people can take for good insurance products.
And beyond the business aspect, she wants to provide a bride, so to speak, for women to find employment in her industry who have “maybe been subject to the death of a spouse, divorce, downsizing or maybe even had spent time incarcerated,” Doehring said.
“They’re maybe in their mid-40s, have no college degree, no real marketable skills that the world would say they need, and are looking to have a career.”
Given that objective, she is offering support for a nonprofit that has a mission along similar lines.
On Monday, International Women’s Day 2021, Doehring made an announcement on behalf of Dress for Success Pittsburgh.
“There are many ways you can do it, and we’re challenging you today to step in so these ladies can step up,” she said during a small gathering for the occasion at her North Strabane Township office. “It’s an immensely impactful organization, and we’re happy to support it any way we can.”
Joining her in the challenge are State Farm insurance agent Megan Chicone, whose office is in Peters Township, and Peters resident Melissa Stein, owner of Stein Wealth Advisors LLC. Mandi Prior, executive director of South West Communities Chamber of Commerce, also is drumming up support for people to donate clothing, make financial contributions and take part in activities and offer their services on behalf of Dress for Success.
The organization’s stated mission “is to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.”
Founded in the mid-1990s, Dress for Success is active on six continents with 145 affiliate locations, and the Pittsburgh affiliate has four branches, including one in Washington.
Elizabeth Mims started with Dress for Success Pittsburgh by managing the Washington Branch and, now as overall director of operations and client services, participated in Monday’s Bridge Insurance gathering via Google Meet. She said the “dress” component represents only some of the equation.
“I honestly believe that we wouldn’t have become this if we were just about the clothes,” she said about the organization’s reach, “because you can get the clothes lots of places, for free or inexpensive. We’re so much more than that. I like to say that clothes are the start of it, but they’re just part of it.”
Among its many avenues of support, Dress for Success Pittsburgh has launched a Virtual Connections Resource Center that features information on topics including job search essentials, hiring, personal growth, styling support and social justice initiatives, along with resources related to mental health and, of course, COVID-19.
“Believe it or not, when COVID happened, we never closed our doors. That was not an option. Of course, it wasn’t an option,” Mims said, citing the effects of the pandemic on women’s livelihoods. “That’s the heart of who we are, and I feel really, really privileged to be able to do that every day for women in different ways.”
Doehring has a matching outlook.
“I feel like God gives you a certain amount of years, resources, talents and abilities. And with those talents and abilities, and resources and years and knowledge and wisdom and experiences, it is my job to steward that,” she said. “So part of my stewardship is certainly being able to help people come into an industry like this and move forward with a viable career, and part of that is to give back to organizations that I see are impacting lives on a day-to-day basis.”
For several years, she has been a strong supporter of the LeMoyne Community Center in East Washington, especially with regard to the “not just giving a handout, but a hand up” philosophy of the late Joyce Ellis, the center’s longtime executive director.
“She was teaching job skills, conflict resolution,” Doehring said. “She was teaching how to work hard. She was teaching how to stay in school. She was providing tutoring programs, mentorship programs. She was providing meals for those who legitimately didn’t have food.”
In February, Bridge Insurance Group made $500 donations to Dress for Success Pittsburgh and to Face 2 Face Healing, a nonprofit that builds support through a community of individuals with disfigurement.
“In insurance, we’re dealing with death. We’re dealing with sickness. We’re dealing with a disability. We’re dealing with those hard things in life,” Doerhing said.
“So when I find organizations that are ready to step into those messy situations and help people, that’s where my passion is.”