As we move from our rain-filled days in British Columbia’s beautiful coastal rainforest, we look forward to the good weather ahead. With each season change, we welcome a different climate and these changes bring the opportunity for more and new WORK!
Have you heard the old joke in Vancouver?
“We have FOUR seasons here….Fall, Winter, Spring and CONSTRUCTION.“
The rise in temperatures allows more outside projects, meaning a greater need for Working Gear. As the temporary labour market scrambles to find Men & Women for development and renovation projects, the demand for our services is even higher.
Working Gear Has Answered The Call-To-Work for a Decade
Wherever our clients are destined to end up, Working Gear is dedicated to providing the essential first steps. Our own story is an inspiration to teamwork and workplace attentions. Throughout the years, Working Gear has been able to add additional service. We currently are able to offer haircuts, interview clothes, construction gear, and of course, work boots. Here is our Story:
2007 The Vision
Working Gear opened its doors with the vision of Founder Stephen Flynn.
“To relieve poverty by providing interview clothing and/or industry appropriate clothing to low income or unemployed Men in search of employment.”
2007-2010 The Call
“More than 50 percent of the people working in British Columbia are living paycheque to paycheque” “In Metro Vancouver, between 2007 and 2014, the increase in … expenses overall were 18%, while the median income of two-parent, two-child families only increased by 10%,” – vancouversun.com
Unemployment rates in BC dropped from 7.7% ( 2009) to 4.6% (2018). We answered this opportunity levelling the field for lower-income families.
Working Gear found partners in organizations locally and internationally.
2010 The Answer
From Chinatown, Working Gear helped over 730 men in just 3 years.
That summer, with the help of a Community Grant from Vancity the “No Small Feet” Campaign, was created with a Goal of 400 boot donations.
Media took up the cause supporting the campaign with mentions by:
GobalTV, CBC Early Edition, The Bill Good Show CKNW 980, Miss604, Indpt. Reporters.
2012 Community Support Grew
Media Supports partners broadcast our message: Boot drive over boot drive.
CBC Early Edition, Global TV, Global BC are regular supporters.
2016 The Era Of Fundraisers
On June 29th – Working Gear hosted it’s inaugural #GearToGive fundraiser at Bull Housser.
2017 The Setback
A Leaky roof collapsed: Working Gear was forced to move and recover a loss of donations.
2018 Community to the rescue
Working Gear moved to the Downtown East Side (DTES).
Community Supporters hosted fundraisers. Supporters like:
Vancouver Facial Hair Club, Tonia Jurbin & BC Hydro, Whisky Wisemen.
Volunteers Awareness Campaign – Volunteers distribute 400 high visibility Vests to Homeless
We answered WorkBC’s call out that 14 800 jobs posted in the region. Our New Goal: to help 1000+ men return to the workforce in 2018!
2019 Working Gear Today, Your Story Begins here.
We know there are increasingly more women in the trades
We have seen a 50% increase in the number of clients served this year alone.
SUCCESS – We have provided for 1,000 clients in 2018. On a given busy day, 10 – 12 clients requiring five or six volunteers.
We have 28 Booking Agencies booking in motivated men and women.
ON JUNE 6th: Our 4th Annual Fundraiser: Goal $100 000 to expand reach help 1000+ man and women return to the workforce.
Can you imagine yourself here?
Our doors are open 3 days: 2 hr/ day.
Together we can give unemployment the boot!
These are just a few of the SUPPORTERS, INNOVATORs, PARTNERS we couldn’t exist without.
RICE HARBUTT ELLIOT
WORK SAFE BC
Interview with Lani Brunn- Volunteer coordinator & Board of Directors
We had the opportunity to visit the Working Gear shop on a busy Wednesday evening. It was the first time that we visited the shop and we had a very pleasant experience chatting with some of the staff and volunteers.
Working Gear is an organization where work-ready men that lack the appropriate attire can get what they need free of cost. Working Gear Clothing Society is managed and ran by volunteers with no government funding. We interviewed Lani Bruun, who’s been a volunteer for 11 years and counting. Lani coordinates volunteers & campaigns, and she is also part of the Board of Directors.
What motivates you to volunteer at Working Gear?
For me, it’s the simplicity of our mission, it’s the fact that there this organization provides services to people who are back on their feet, who are ready for a second chance. If they don’t have the trade’s gear, if they don’t have the right interview clothes they don’t get the job. You can’t even walk into a construction site without having the steel toed boots. I almost think of it as a hinge in the door. It’s a very small piece but without it, the door does not open.
For me, the motivation is the fact that we are volunteer driven, it’s people donations, it’s really the community caring for their community.
Can you tell us a story about your time here that has stay with you?
It’s funny cause I am not in the shop as much anymore. I, probably for the first 7 years that I volunteered, I was in the shop every month. Mostly a lot of the stuff I do now is governance and support for the organization. One story that has always stayed with me is one when there was an old fellow that came one day, when I was volunteering. And he used to be a businessman, he used to have a really great life, he had a house, he had a job, he had nice clothes, but everything fell apart. He lost his way. He was an alcoholic, he ended up losing his job, he ended up losing his family. He basically lived really rough for about 10 years. When he came in that night, it was me and Stephen volunteering. We suited him up with this gorgeous suit cause he was ready, he was just ready. And he had done so much to be ready, it was his time. And he looked really good. But Stephen was like, no no no, it’s not right yet. So Stephen went and found this amazing dress jacket, with the little flaps and then he found this gorgeous expensive men’s scarf. And as soon as this fellow put it on, I watched him stand up straight, his shoulders went back. I often thought about how when he put this coat on, it felt like he was putting on dignity. And it felt like he knew he was back to he was.
How much of an impact Working Gear is making in the community?
I think we are making an impact in the community that is not huge, but it’s necessary. There are places that have tables stacked with donated clothes that people rifle through. But they don’t often find the right things, they don’t find the things that fit or they are not appropriate for an interview or for a job. I think that at Working Gear, because what’s happening here in the back, we are sorting all the clothes, we are making sure that it’s the right stuff, that they are clean. But it’s the right stuff and we make sure it’s the right people get it. The impact in the community is that people that are ready for that life change, they get to have it, they get to have their chance. Where often people wouldn’t given them a chance because they didn’t have the right interview clothes.
What can you tell potential donors about the organization, how would their money contribute the cause?
Our expenses are low, so basically for 3 or 4 grand a month, everything runs. I think it ends up costing us about 25 dollars for each person, that comes through the door. We can do all that we do for very little, there is not a lot of organizations that can say that. Also, we don’t feed funding. It’s so needed but this isn’t an area you can find funding for. And so it really needs to be the community coming together and supporting. And that’s what we find. Our donors are usually people that want to give someone a second chance. They want to give to a place where is going to make a huge difference. This money we receive goes to keep our doors open, we pay our rent, we buy steel toed boots (which are expensive) we make sure we have the right gear here.
We want to thank Lani for her time and we’d love for you to join us for an evening of entertainment, networking, food, and drinks on June 6th at our Working Gear’s annual fundraising event – Gear to Give. All to benefit the economic empowerment of unemployed or underemployed men and women.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Stephen Flynn, founder of Working Gear. He talked to us about the impact that Working Gear is making in the community and why it’s important for the organization to continue to receive the support it has until today…
Tell us your name and what you do here at Working Gear:
My name is Stephen Flynn, I am the person who started Working Gear 12 years ago and I’m a volunteer in the shop. I like to come here on Wednesday nights and I like to help a variety of guys get clothes and work gear so that they can get ready to go back to work.
What motivated you to found this organization?
Well when we started Working Gear 12 years ago, there wasn’t any kind of service in Vancouver or the Lower Mainland to assist men going for job interviews or onto a worksite with clothing or gear supports. There was a service like that for women called “Dress for Success” – which is fantastic organization but it didn’t provide services for men.
How much growth have you seen in the last 12 years?
Well it’s been a busy 12 years and Working Gear has been open two or three days a week for almost all of this time. We’ve seen tremendous growth; not only in terms of the size of our shop and the amount of clothing and gear that we provide to men (and now increasingly to women in the trades) but also in terms of the numbers of people we serve. At the current time, we feel that we probably provide services to about 1,000 clients a year. And on a night like tonight, it’s a busy night. We’ve got 10 – 12 clients and five or six volunteers helping them get haircuts, interview clothes and construction gear, especially work boots.
Can you tell us a story that has stayed with you in these last 12 years?
Well there are a number of clients that we’ve had come in to the shop, and these fellows have become volunteers in the shop as well. These are people that we kind of know the best, and have a really good, maybe the best, appreciation for because we’ve gotten to know them over a longer period of time. They might come in once a year, we might see them every couple of years, or they might be repeat clients over the years. And in 12 years, you know they are older, the kinds of jobs they are looking for are different but they are still really challenged to be able to afford nice looking interview clothes or trade appropriate construction gear. These kinds of things are very expensive. And for men who are living in poverty, who don’t have the best paying jobs to begin with, these kinds of support are very important.
How much impact do you see Working Gear is making in the community?
Well that’s a good question. We’re just starting to get better at tracking our statistics. But we know that we do have an impact and that the services we provide are really needed. We know that by working with our partner agencies, the employment service organizations, as well as anecdotally from stories we hear from the men and women coming into our shop that the impact that we have is critical. What we are trying to do is provide accessible clothing and gear supports for our clients to be able to return to work as quickly as possible. We are low barrier, don’t have a lot of paperwork and don’t create barriers for them to get back into the workplace. We want them to have the clothes they need to be able to get out and to find a job.
What can you tell potential donors or partners about this organization? How will their money/ donations contribute to your cause?
Well that’s a good question. Since day one Working Gear has relied upon the kindness of strangers and donors. Most of our clothing and gear is donated, although we do purchase some items such as rain gear and steel toe boots, which is part of the reason why financial donations are so important as well. We feel that, you know, we are not providing handouts to people, we are providing a helping hand up for people that are determined and ready to work. And the donations that they make help keep the doors open here, they keep our services free, and they support not only hundreds but over a thousand men a year who come in and use our services. So those kind of contributions are very important to us, and any donations that are made, whether financial or in-kind, go directly towards our services.
We invite everyone to join us at Working Gear’s Annual Fundraiser – Gear to Give held on June 6th at the Vancouver Club. Click here for more information.
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 email@example.com for more information
Working Gear welcomes Our New Barber Sean Murphy
Working Gear is delighted to welcome our new barber Sean Murphy. Sean is an apprentice barber who is excited about being given the opportunity to help those in need. Sean is in our shop on Wednesday nights from 6 pm to 8 pm.
Haircuts are first to come are first served.
Working Gear is grateful to all our volunteers. We would not exist without them.