Volunteer Spotlight: Michael

Volunteer Spotlight: Michael

As a former Working Gear client himself, our volunteer Michael understands better than anyone what our clients are going through.

Michael is from Nigeria, a country on the West Coast of Africa. Arriving on his own to Canada in spring 2019, he enrolled in a program at Douglas College that supports new immigrants as they transition into the Canadian workplace. When Michael was invited to his first interview in Vancouver, he had nothing smart to wear, and was referred to Working Gear by one of the program’s facilitators.

The team of Working Gear volunteers quickly helped Michael find two suits to wear and he left the shop feeling confident and prepared for his upcoming interview.

Hoping to bring the same positive experience to other clients, the very next week, Michael began volunteering at the shop. Each week, he helps clients navigate their way around and find appropriate clothing, so that they too can head into the working world with confidence and style.

“When I first came to Working Gear, I didn’t just get the suits that I needed, I got love from Sarah and the team. I immediately knew that I wanted to become a volunteer myself so that I can greet everyone with a big smile, just like how I was greeted my first time. I want to make every client believe that they matter and that someone loves them. It’s a fulfilling experience.”

Michael is one of the many Working Gear success stories. Shortly after his appointment, he got a job as an auditor at a hotel and is currently studying for his MBA. He considers his two Working Gear suits some of his most valuable assets and continues to wear them regularly.

The busiest season for charitable giving is upon us. With your support, Michael can continue to greet clients with a big smile and help them find the right clothing for the job. With your generosity, Working Gear can continue to break down barriers to employment that many individuals are currently facing.

Please mark your calendar and schedule time to make your yearend donations. We accomplished so much in 2020 and with your help can do even more in 2021.

If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer, contact Sarah Beley at info@workinggear.ca.

Client Spotlight: Merv

Client Spotlight: Merv

Did you know that most companies will not hire individuals for manual labour or construction work without the correct gear? Unfortunately, this is the reality for many of Working Gear’s clients.

Working Gear’s former client, Merv, experienced this barrier to employment firsthand. He arrived in Vancouver in 2018, ready to work as an experienced forklift driver and labourer. Upon arriving, he could not afford to purchase the boots he needed to safely work, or the clothing to keep him warm and dry on rainy Vancouver days.

WorkBC referred Merv to Working Gear, knowing it would be a safe and friendly place for him to access steel-toe boots and other protective gear, free of charge. Merv walked out of Working Gear with boots, a hard hat, a high-vis hoodie and vest, and warm gloves – everything he needed to get back onto the job site.

“I was blown away, I couldn’t believe this place existed,” Merv explains. “Sarah and the team were so welcoming – they helped me pick out everything I needed to get me ready for work. Working Gear was the helping hand I needed.”

The day after Merv’s appointment at Working Gear, he got a job at Rogers Arena – a job he says is easily his favourite job to-date. One of Merv’s claims to fame is that, as one of Roger Arena’s best forklift drivers, he helped move Elton John’s piano and even got a handshake from the man himself! “But that’s a story for another day,” he says, smiling.

Merv credits his employment success to Working Gear, as the organization helped him get the start in Vancouver he greatly needed. Without the support of Working Gear, Merv isn’t sure where he would be now.

Working Gear needs your support to create more success stories – just like Merv’s. Your donation will help ensure that Working Gear can continue to break down barriers to employment that many individuals are currently facing.

Thanks to our generous partner, WorkSafeBC, your donation today will go even further. WorkSafeBC heard about our fundraising goal ($10,000) and they have offered to match donations up to $5,000. Don’t miss out on doubling your impact on Giving Tuesday, donate today!

The High Cost Of Safety Gear For A Low Income Individual

High Cost Of Safety Gear

The average cost of living in Greater Vancouver

According to the 2015 census, the median total income of households in Vancouver was $72,662. So what does life look like as the average Vancouverite? 

Rent costs approximately one-third of your income: a one-bedroom apartment in the City Centre is $2,054; outside of the city, it’s a little cheaper at  $1,659. This leaves approximately $3,800 for living expenses. Living locally, your zone 1 bus pass costs $98/ month, your food cost, phone, internet, clothing, and entertainment is estimated, for a single person to be $1,143. With this in mind, the average person living in Vancouver has just over $2000 each month to get ahead.

The reality of low income

Low income individuals, the clients that Working Gear supports, represent 16% of all Metro Vancouver citizens. 

According to Stats Canada for a one-person household, the after-tax low-income measure was $22,460 in 2015. That’s $1,872 per month, which must cover rent and all you need to survive. For our clients, this means:

  • Everything outside of basic needs is a decision of what to sacrifice
  • Living out of the city and paying almost double for a bus pass
  • Longer commutes to the city and, sometimes, restricted transit access
  • Food, phone, and “life” must fit into just over $200 per  month

The current price of safety gear

In British Columbia, an employer must enforce the use of safety gear even if they do not provide it. Hard hats and reflective vests may be what is commonly envisioned, but safety gear is highly specific to the job’s needs. Slip-proof boots, rain gear, and ear protection can be just as important to prevent injury. 

Safety equipment is not only essential. It is personal and not easily shared, and is often the first thing a worker will invest in when they’re starting out. 

With this perspective, let’s look at the cost of safety gear. We looked at Mark’s online sales. What does it cost to start that first day of work if you start with nothing? 

Safety Gear

  • A reflective vest $21-149
  • Safety glasses $19
  • Hard hats $59
  • Ear protection $9-$24
  • Boots, gloves, jackets and more are designed and priced for a competitive marketplace making smarter and more expensive components all the time

Personal Gear

  • Work boots $64-159
  • Work jacket $69-$181+
  • Rain gear $24-259; reflective starts at $144
  • Shoe covers $29-69
  • Overalls $59-209
  • Work pants $64-94
  • Gloves $10-43
Work Safe Gear

Work Safe Gear

How Working Gear helps

It is clear how much more difficult it is for low income individuals to be able to access the safety gear and other personal equipment they need for their first week on the job.

Working Gear helps level the field with gently used or new gear so our clients can be ready. The reality is that adequate gear is not good enough. We ensure the donations we carry are high quality items that will last.



5 Reasons You Know Your Donation Is In The Right Hands

5 Reasons You Know Your Donation Is In The Right Hands


It’s well documented that as we get older we look back on life and consider the things we did. We measure it not based on the things we had but the people we came in contact with. We are hard-wired to remember things connected to humans. Perhaps it is because our ancestors relied on others to survive and prosper.

On the surface, modern society does not value the community as it once did. But this is not the entire story. When we offer assistance, we feel a sense of worth. Sometimes it just takes an opportunity to give which allows us to enrich our own lives by helping others.

“I’m reminded that no matter how hard we try, nothing we do is in a vacuum.”

― Mike McIntyre, The Kindness of Strangers

Congratulations on making the decision, or at least considering to offer kindness to a stranger. We give you permission to brag it up and celebrate it. We certainly do. We believe you have found the right place. Here is why Working Gear is the right choice for your donation.


Not a handout, but a hand up

Working Gear is a very special organization. It takes discarded clothing, skills of volunteers, and donated dollars and turns them into life tools. We provide hard to come by, high-quality clothing and footwear essential for attaining and holding work to the men who desperately need it.

Our clients are motivated to make a new start. No matter what life circumstance caused them to fall down or why they are under-employed, we believe in their ability to take what we can offer and run with it. Our success stats may be anecdotal, but very compelling.

The thing which is so rewarding about Working Gear is our volunteers and partner organizations are very motivated to give our clients everything they will need for continued success.

Clients receive our volunteers’ empathy and skilled advice along with their clothing. Styling, hair cuts, and personal stories are all valued tools to launch their success. Clients get more than a suit, it’s a suit fashionably styled. It’s not a work shirt, it’s whatever they need for several days of work. It’s not a handout, we are providing a helping hand up for people referred to us who are ready to change their lives.


Our Clients Stories

Due to the nature of our work, our donors will likely never meet the people whose lives they change. We let you see them through the words of our volunteers and partners. We have many stories to tell, and many volunteers eager to share them.


We once helped “three young Syrian men, who recently arrived in Canada and secured jobs in ironworking. There they were. [ I remember ]  He was trying to find something in a 3XL for the youngest, who towers over us at an impressive 6’8″… He was ecstatic when we found him a few things to fit his frame, including a brand new pair of size 14 Stompers Raindance boots.”  – Viberg Boots, Partner Company

More at https://workinggear.ca/blog/were-giving-unemployment-the-boot-with-help-from-our-friends-at-workboot-com/


“Many of us share a similar circumstance to the men who look to Working Gear for help. A couple missed paycheques, one hard setback; that’s all it took for the majority of the gentlemen we met with that day, to put them in an uphill battle.”  – Lani Brunn, Volunteer coordinator & Board of Directors

More at https://workinggear.ca/blog/people-that-are-ready-for-a-life-change-get-to-have-their-chance/


Clothing holds a powerful connection. One of our volunteers who was collecting boot donations shared this story: “I met an engineer who was seconded to us. As I got to know him I learned that he lost his father, also an engineer and his infant son within about a year of each other. He had his dad’s boots that were almost new and he just couldn’t part with those boots until he met me, what a legacy to his father.” – Tonia Jurbin, Volunteer

More at https://workinggear.ca/blog/meet-working-gears-tonia-jurbin-volunteer-stories/


Your donations go directly to our clients

There are many great organizations, we do not deny this for a moment. Each has its place and goes about their offering in different ways. For some of these organizations, the path to helping is complicated.

Working Gear is not complicated. We operate on very little. Our administrative team is small and our rent is negotiated to be very competitive. By carefully managing our administration costs any donations, whether financial or in-kind, go directly toward our services.

Of course, from time to time we get a donation which doesn’t work for us. Although they are clothing, not all our donations are suited for our clients. But nothing goes to waste. If a local organization cannot accept the donation we have partner programs who ship such clothing to third world countries. This is something we are very proud of but rarely talk about.

Success By Referral

One of the most powerful facts about Working Gear is we want to help our clients make real, impactful changes. At the best of times, improving a life situation is difficult. We are proud to have a part in those first difficult steps.

Our clients are chosen not by us but by one of our referring agencies. The agencies know our clients and believe they are ready to re-enter the workforce. Clients come to us because they have shown a desire to succeed and we are ready to help.

We only accept clients referred to us from our approved agency list. Anyone can apply to be a referring agent and to do this is free process. This allows us to grow with the needs of the community.

See our about page for a list of the agencies we work with.

12 Years Strong

Wow, twelve years. It’s hard to imagine that we have been helping men in the community for this number of years. It is also a testament to the fact our business model is sustainable.

In the past 12 years, much has happened. We are firmly integrated into the community and have a network of support systems. Our referring agencies send us those who have a genuine opportunity to move their lives forward. They have a need which fits our ability to help.

Best yet, 12 years means we have a rich history and on more than one occasion a client who has come to us looking for an entry-level job has come back to provide us with insight, to volunteers, or to announce their progression to a higher paying position. It is very satisfying. We are fiercely proud of our part in their success your part in helping us make this happen.

A Final Word

Donations keep the doors open here, they keep our services free, and they support over a thousand men a year. As you consider your donation, know we are more than happy to answer your questions. Here are a few important links:

Are you ready to donate?

Or perhaps you’d like to start with Working Gear’s Annual Fundraiser – Gear to Give. It will be held on June 6th at the Vancouver Club. Click here for more information.

Working Gear Needs Culinary Donations

Working Gear Needs Culinary Donations

B.C.’s restaurant industry is growing rapidly and Vancouver is becoming a leader in the culinary world. But the high demand for dining out is contributing to a serious labor shortage in the industry. More and more clients are being referred to Working Gear in search of culinary clothing and footwear to start their culinary career journey.  Working Gear is in desperate need of culinary donations to help match this need in our community.

Working Gear is accepting both new and gently used kitchen apparel and footwear.

Donations can be dropped off at Working Gear’s shop at 520 Powell Street, during the hours of 6 pm and 8 pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays and 10 am and noon on Saturdays.

Please email info@workinggear.ca for more information

Vancouver non-profit clothes work-ready men and helps brighten lives

Vancouver non-profit clothes work-ready men and helps brighten lives

Speaking from a telephone at Union Gospel Mission, John Wright’s positivity is infectious. Bright, intelligent and soft-spoken, the 61-year-old is a bit of a Renaissance man. His resume reports that he is a trained Red Seal chef, a lifeguard, and he has worked at several universities. But, with the pressure to succeed came the pressure to use. John started drinking early, then was introduced to marijuana and later succumbed to cocaine addiction. After using for 35 years, he has now recovered — clean and sober — and relearning how to live his life.

For Wright his journey toward health has been long, involving many steps and including an appointment at Working Gear Clothing Society. The non-profit 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.

Wright recalls walking into the shop four months ago, hoping to get some work clothes to help land a job. At the time he was looking for steel toe work boots, and unfortunately, went home empty handed. There weren’t any size 12s in the shop – there were hardly any even there. Wright’s need was all too familiar for many unemployed, yet work-ready men. Steel toe boots are expensive, and almost impossible to purchase when you’re on social assistance.

However, after his fitting, Wright did walk away with work pants, a work coat, two shirts, socks – everything he needed except steel toe boots. A few days later, Working Gear located that illusive size 12, but after an assessment, Wright’s arthritic knees couldn’t handle the damp of working outside, so the boots went to someone else in need. That’s something that makes Wright happy. “When you are starting out it’s great to have Working Gear to get you going,” he says.

While working in construction is not in his future, Wright currently has his sights on the pest control industry and is studying to take an exam. Wright says, “I’m taking it nice and slow. Sometimes you can get tripped up very fast. I want to go down the right path.”

Wright is hoping that he’ll find his new employment home soon. “It’s very important to men to work. It keeps you occupied. Keeps your mind going in the right direction. By keeping busy, you keep your hands out of trouble.”

When asked where he sees himself in five years, you can hear Wright smile on the other end of the phone. He’s still a passionate chef and has some culinary tricks to try out on willing appetites. He’s also looking forward to reuniting with his family.

“The spring is coming — then it will be time to spread my wings,” says Wright.

And, Working Gear will be there.

In the early fall, Working Gear Clothing Society embarked on a campaign called “No Small Feet” with the goal of eliciting 400 pairs of steel toe work boots from the community by the end of the year. So far, they have collected 331 pairs and have seen over 580 men come through their doors. The small non-profit also attracted the attention of WorkSafeBC and began a partnership. Together they hope to get the word out to ensure work-ready men obtain functional clothing to keep them safe on work sites.

More information on Working Gear Clothing Society and the “No Small Feet” campaign can be found online at www.workinggear.ca.