Professional attire and grooming are often the foundation for beginning a career or even just navigating life’s many interactions that require a semi-formal setting.

Many women, however, lack the resources to take this first step toward building a self-sustaining future.

Victoria, British Columbia-based Wear2Start Society gives a helping hand to assist local self-identified women in taking that first step to finding a job and launching a career by providing clothing, accessories, shoes, handbags and essential care items. The service, which is powered by donations, is free of charge to the client.

“We see a wide variety of women from young women that just aged out of foster care, to women in their late 60s, to breast cancer survivors who are just starting over,” said Jeanette Kelly, fundraising and outreach committee chair for Wear2Start.

Living its motto “We are changing lives….one wardrobe at a time,” Kelly spreads the word about the charity to groups that want a heart-warming CSR activity option in the Greater Victoria area.

Listen to Jeanette Kelly talk about this incredible program:

Meetings Today partnered with Wear2Start to provide a CSR element at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe during its Meetings Today LIVE! West hosted-buyer educational program in Victoria September 29-October 5.

Start Blue Bags include personal hygiene items for getting ready in the morningThe activity found Meetings Today LIVE! attendees assembling Wear2Start’s Beyond the Start Blue Bags, which contain personal hygiene items for getting ready in the morning, such as shampoo, soap, toothpaste, hand lotion, a face cloth, a razor and other items. Meetings Today purchased the items for the kits.

Wear2Start Branches Out Beyond Employment Preparation

In 2019, Wear2Start branched out to assist women with clothes and accessories for purposes such as meeting with a landlord, appearing for a court date, fleeing an abusive relationship, going back to school or recovering after an emergency.

The society’s volunteers operate a boutique in downtown Victoria, and also help arrange services such as haircuts and clothing alterations.

“It’s not like going to a thrift store or a consignment store,” Kelly said of the boutique. “We sit down and talk with them to make sure they’re age appropriate and leaving looking good. And I would say 99% of the time there’s tears when our clients leave the store.

“We try to create a real boutique experience for our clients,” she continued. “They come to through us through a variety of channels—immigrant women, women on a job search, women self-identified as single moms, working poor that spend their money on their kids and food instead of clothes.”

Wear2Start's Victoria, British Columbia, boutique.
Photo: Wear2Start's Victoria, British Columbia, boutique

One particularly endearing outcome of women who receive a Blue Bag embodies the motherly instinct of putting their children’s needs before their own.

“When women look in their Blue Bag, they often say, ‘My son will be so excited, he’ll have a grown-up toothbrush, so I’ll just use his old one. This is like the Christmas present he never got,’” Kelly said.

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