As Andrew Frederick folds and stacks a pile of men’s coveralls he looks like any other young retail worker. But looks can be deceiving. After two years of battling ups and downs, Andrew started his life over in Vancouver where he was closer to his family, and in a city that would provide opportunities to help him achieve his goals.
But starting over wasn’t exactly easy, and when faced with potential job opportunities Andrew didn’t have the finances or the resources to buy interview appropriate clothing. Soon he found himself knocking on Working Gear Clothing Society’s door.
“I came to Working Gear to see about getting some clothing for job interviews. I was fitted by the volunteers and walked away with a suit, shirt and even a Hugo Boss tie. It was a great experience and very encouraging,” says Andrew.
Working Gear Clothing Society provides trade appropriate clothing at no cost to low income men who are looking for work. These are men who are job ready, but lack something as simple as a pair of work boots or even a suit and dress shoes for an interview. Men are referred to the organization through social services, given an appointment time and are then fitted.
Shop coordinator Aphroditi Dinatis helped Andrew with his fitting. She says, “Andrew is a very intelligent young man. He is driven and suiting him up and seeing him with new and appropriate clothing to attend his job interviews is really the pay-off for us. It’s what Working Gear is all about.”
Since his appointment Andrew has secured work in the restaurant industry and hopes to one day return to school and be trained in technical web design. He has a solid five-year plan and there is a genuine excitement in his voice as he shares it.
Today he is paying it forward, volunteering alongside Aphroditi at Working Gear, helping organize the shop for clients with similar needs. He admits that his parents have been a bit shocked and thrilled at all his changes. His volunteering is just one outward example of the transformations within.
“It’s good to help out,” says Andrew. “I know how tough it is to get back on your feet and if I can be there to help, then others can see it’s a good thing to do too.”
Since he’s been volunteering at Working Gear he has seen what clothing is in high demand for job-ready men. “The store has lots of suits from sizes that fit me, a smaller guy, to men’s big and tall. There is a suit for everyone. They could however use more steel toe boots and construction gear,” says Andrew.
Aphroditi says, “It’s too expensive for our customers to purchase new steel toe boots, especially when they are trying to get their feet under them and find work like Andrew. We’re hoping to help them but we desperately need boots and construction gear.”
Working Gear Clothing Society is embarking on a campaign called “No Small Feet” to elicit 400 pairs of steel toe work boots from the community by the end of the year. The small non-profit has recently attracted the attention of WorkSafeBC who is partnering this year with Working Gear. Together they hope to get the word out to ensure work-ready men obtain functional clothing to attend an interview and to keep them safe on work sites.