Her life is a story so inspiring it feels fresh out of the pages of a novel. A tale of grit and caring with a happy ending in progress — and Alisa Trang Green as its heroine.
Born in a Vietnamese refugee camp, Green was one of five siblings. Her family moved to Oklahoma City, where they raised her. “I went to public school here, college here (UCO), married someone from here, my kids (two daughters) now go to school here,” Green said “So I’m an Oklahoman.” Despite hard work and multiple jobs, her parents and family often depended upon nonprofit organizations and programs to help them get by.
When deciding on a career, Green ultimately knew she wanted to learn from and help others. “Why make other people rich when you could be enriching other people, you know?” she said casually. Green is quick-witted and approachable; seamlessly accompanying her beauty and poise is an unexpectedly goofy side.
In 2013, Green founded Dress for Success. “It came about because I did research into what the community was lacking,” she said. At the time of its founding, Oklahoma was the number one incarcerator of women in the entire world. “What kind of programs do we have here to help with reintegration?” she wondered.
Services provided by OKC Dress for Success include upscale outfits for job interviews, as well as professional and personal training programs that teach job skills, healthy relationships and balancing home life and work life. Green’s favorite services the organization provides are its retention programs, which allow her to connect with the women and follow their journey.
A tragedy in June 2020 could have been the end of OKC’s chapter of Dress for Success. In the middle of the night after the Black Lives Matter march had concluded in downtown OKC, the building and all its contents were lost in a fire.
“My first instinct was: This is a time we can take a stand,” Green remembered through tears. “Because I know that people are going to try and divide us right now. And that is completely opposite of what we stand for. We built this organization on unity and we needed the community to get to where we are. We lost everything. We literally had to start completely over. I wasn’t mad; I think I was sad. I knew people were hurting. But I knew the community was going to rally around us. When I tell you I love Oklahoma City so much, it’s because they understood the assignment.”
With the help of volunteers including Taber Homes, and thousands who donated and shared the story, Dress for Success was able to completely rebuild in five months with a brand-new location in downtown. “We came back bigger and better,” Green recalled. “We had to practice what we preach. How can we tell the women that they can start over if we’re not going to be able to start over?”
Along with her accomplishments at Dress for Success, Green serves as president of the Dragonfly Home board and sits on the City Rescue Mission board. While she flourishes as a prominent member of the philanthropic community in OKC, she remembers her family’s roots. “Without nonprofits and churches and people helping them, they wouldn’t have been able to raise five kids and put them through college,” she said. It is a full-circle narrative that brings out the best in our country and city and is represented in one woman’s beautiful life.