A group of women recently hopped in a car in Abbotsford and headed to Vancouver to go “shopping.”
What made this excursion unique for Karen, Jamie, Shelby and Robyn was that they each came home with an outfit that didn’t cost them a dime.
The four women are part of Communitas Employment (CE), which offers classes and coaching, giving individuals skills and experience with the goal of finding meaningful employment.
The trip, organized by Donna Esau, an employment specialist with CE, was an opportunity to visit Dress for Success, an international organization whose mission is to empower women as they enter the workforce.
One of the services offered by Dress for Success is the opportunity for women to receive professional attire for job interviews and as they begin a new career.
When Esau took one of the people she serves to the organization last year, it turned out to be such a success that she knew there would be other women who would benefit from it.
“I really believe that the Dress for Success experience is wonderful for the women who participate,” Esau said. “It gives them confidence to see themselves dressed professionally.”
Each woman was paired with a volunteer who helped them find an appropriate outfit that included shoes and accessories. Shelby, who is looking for work with children, really enjoyed the experience.
“It was wonderful,” she said. “The staff were so friendly and helpful. It felt so nice putting on the outfit for the first time.”
Karen, who was also part of the group, said she felt nervous going into the experience, but the volunteers there made everyone feel at ease.
“Natasha was the volunteer who was paired with me and she was awesome,” said Karen, who is looking for administrative work. “We looked at different clothes together and the first pair of pants she found for me fit perfectly. I was so happy.”
Dress for Success was founded in New York City in 1997. Since then, it has served more than one million women around the world.
Clothing and accessories are donated, and the services are offered by volunteers. Esau was grateful for the way these volunteers interacted with the women.
“Each lady was treated with respect and dignity,” she said. “They found something that worked well for them, they felt beautiful, and had fun too.”
Many of the women who are part of CE do not have the financial resources available to buy professional clothing. This can be a barrier to finding employment.
Both Shelby and Karen said the experience made them feel confident and they are looking forward to wearing their outfits to upcoming job interviews.
Karen said this is something she would recommend to other women.