B.C. charity offering free office wear and work safety gear sees growing demand

اخبار العرب-كندا 24: الجمعة 26 مايو 2023 01:31 صباحاً

Volunteers at Working Gear help sort through donations and provide services such as haircuts for those in need. (Baneet Braich  - image credit)

Volunteers at Working Gear help sort through donations and provide services such as haircuts for those in need. (Baneet Braich - image credit)

A space filled with donated safety vests, steel toe boots, and office attire is nestled into a building at the intersection of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and Chinatown neighbourhoods.

Walking inside, there's a space where a barber has set up shop in a corner and a black wall with a bright neon sign that reads, "Working Gear."  The non-profit charity provides free safety gear, office wear and haircuts to low-income and unemployed individuals as they transition back into the workforce.

"There's so many barriers to people getting back to work. And one of the easiest ones to solve is by providing the safety equipment and providing the clothing," said Sarah Beley, the executive director of Working Gear.

Working Gear started in 2007, but with rising inflation and more newcomers to B.C., including Ukrainian refugees, Beley says the charity is seeing rising demand for its services. The space offers protective gear — steel-toed boots, hard hats, high-visibility vests, coats, dress shirts, blouses, dresses, shoes and more for those who can't afford them.

Growing demand for services

In 2022, Working Group helped around 1,200 people, and this May, they have already supported 800 people with their services, said Beley. "We see a lot more people are struggling economically, and people are trying to make better lives for themselves and their families."

She says kids aged out of foster care. People who have faced mental health crises or exited the criminal justice system also rely on Working Gear.

Baneet Braich

Baneet Braich

Andrii Kuratov arrived in Canada as a Ukrainian refugee two months ago and was referred to Working Gear by Work B.C. He says he picked out a suit for his job interviews and was relieved to get two job offers shortly after.

He currently works as a restaurant host, volunteers with Working Gear, and hopes to become an information technology project manager one day as he was back in Ukraine.

Story continues

"Working Gear helped me a lot, and I'd like to dedicate my own time, my efforts and to give back at least something."

Andrii Batitskii and his wife, Kateryna, were the first Ukrainian refugees to visit Working Gear last year. They are now also volunteering and say Working Gear provides them with a sense of community and belonging.

For us, it's like a family," said Batitskii. "We came without clothes, without money, without family."

Baneet Braich

Baneet Braich

In Ukraine, Andrii was a professional massage therapist and says Working Gear has helped him land a few contract jobs at spas in Vancouver and New Westminster.

His wife, Kateryna, was a film and fashion makeup artist in Ukraine. Both are continuing to interview for more work in their respective fields while helping new refugees get support at Working Gear.

Donations needed to support clients

For clients to be eligible for an appointment, they are required to book through one of Working Gear's approved referral agencies which include the Canadian Mental Health Association, Fraser Health, and the Urban Native Youth Association.

According to a 2022 report by Working Gear, 29 per cent of clients would have had to pass on their job offer if they were not given supplies from working gear.

The charity relies on donations from individuals, businesses, and organizations, such as WorkSafeBC, to provide industry-appropriate clothing. It also has more than 70 volunteers helping with operations at the office.

Beley says as demand for their services grows, they continue to accept donations for workwear, safety attire and volunteers.

"This is a vital service to help people get to where they want to be."

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