We had the opportunity to meet Jessica L. Jimmo, exiting Board Member. She has been an essential anchor to Working Gear’s advisory team. Jessica has been a volunteer for almost a decade. For an organization conceived just 12 years ago the numbers alone speak to her dedication and belief in the simple but mighty mission of Working Gear.
Today, few of us remember how heavily hit North America was by the Great Recession of 2008-09. What began as a response to the collapse of the United State’s real estate market also tore apart our British Columbia workforce. There was a sharp increase in unemployment from 4.6% in 2007 to 7.7% just one year later in 2008 [link Via https://www.statista.com/statistics/569373/unemployment-rate-british-columbia-canada/] and so many men and women lost their livelihood.
Recovery although consistent has only now returned to its pre-crisis rate. But the business world has changed. Employers are economical which forever shifted the work environment.
Graphic from https://www.statista.com
Jessica L. Jimmo knows how Working Gear has struggled to normalize and provide a sense of trust. When a candidate is given the tools that polish their look, cautious employers simply feel reassured. That’s an important but hard to measure benefit that endears the community, both clients and partner associations to Working Gear.
Jessica L. Jimmo reflects on her years with Working Gear.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN INVOLVED WITH WORKING GEAR AS A VOLUNTEER & BOARD MEMBER?
Nine years, 6 months, give or take.
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO HELP THIS CAUSE?
I was motivated by people, the people we were serving and the people sitting around the board table. I was in awe of the resilience and good-will of the people who came through the Working Gear doors. I was inspired by the dedication, compassion and integrity of the group of people who had been drawn together around Working Gear.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE THING ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION?
It’s how a simple act could have an immediate impact. I was drawn to the idea that a pair of boots could be given a second life and create an opportunity for someone who is ready to step on a job site and work towards financial stability.
WHAT IS THE TRUE IMPACT OF WORKING GEAR IN THE COMMUNITY?
All of what Working Gear is now was born out of the simple idea that all someone who was ready to work needed was a pair of boots to confidently walk on a job site and ask for the job they were qualified to do.
It’s not about giving someone a fish or teaching them to fish, it was and always will be about giving them the fishing rod they needed to be successful. It’s about showing people dignity and giving them the tools to be able to reach for the opportunity.
AND LASTLY, AS THE OUTGOING BOARD MEMBER WHAT ADVICE OR MESSAGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO GIVE TO THE CURRENT BOARD MEMBERS AND/OR THE NEW BOARD MEMBERS?
That sometimes you need to go slow to go fast. Big change happens through a series of smaller steps.
In 2009 British Columbia needed the commitment of volunteers like Jessica L. Jimmo to bring Working Gear clients to a place where like the last recession, the darker days can be forgotten.
This is how YOU can make a lasting difference. Volunteerism, donations and spreading awareness. Jessica L. Jimmo’s legacy ensures that these small acts can be intelligently leveraged by Working Gear. If you are curious about how this is achieved we encourage you to learn more. [link: https://workinggear.ca/blog/5-reasons-you-know-your-donation-is-in-the-right-hands/]
“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.”
“There is no perfect time to give back…” says Alyssa Patuel from Indochino. “At Indochino we give away all the garments that we cannot sell anymore. We don’t want them to end up in landfills.”
We sat down with Alyssa from Indochino, who invited us to their Vancouver headquarters. We got the opportunity to chat about how they got involved with Working Gear, and also about their initiative to discard garments in a sustainable manner.
Working Gear is grateful to the many corporate partners who help our organization serve 1,000 clients per year.
How did Indochino get involved with Working Gear?
We had a deep need for donating the garments that we couldn’t resell as a company, and we wanted to make sure that these garments found a good home. At the same time, we wanted to find a local non-profit that aligned with Indochino’s corporate mission to inspire confidence. So when we found out about Working Gear aim to provide individuals with the clothes they need to get back on their feet, forming a partnership made perfect sense.
What do you do as Operation Specialist at Indochino?
One of the roles of the Operations team is to make sure end-of-life of product is taken into account, which is why donating garments is so important. If we were to discard the garments, we’d want to make sure they are discarded sustainably. Fortunately we don’t need discard the garments, we donate everything. It’s a huge initiative for the company and for my team.
So we know you donate a lot of garments, but you also you encourage other people working at Indochino to volunteer. How did this initiative start?
When I initially got involved with Working Gear, I wanted to find out what the organization needed and how they could potentially grow.
To raise funds, we donated a custom suit for their auction at their annual Gear to Give fundraising gala. We also had an office sample sale to raise additional funds.
They also needed personnel resources. We have great people working at Indochino, and there was interest from the team in getting involved with the community. We set up a volunteer session for Indochino employees to help suit up Working Gear clients. The turnout was great so I made posters to call for even more volunteers. I started going more regularly and people joined me. “Indochino Night” is now a monthly event.
I feel like it has changed my life to get out on the community more and I think it has made a difference in the colleagues who joined me. I definitely recommend it as a workplace initiative.
Since you’ve been volunteering, what do you think about Working Gear?
Working Gear creates a safe space for people who are not far from being on the streets. The heart and soul of that is Sarah who runs the organization. Through its referral program, they provide clothing to people who wouldn’t necessarily have the resources to find the right clothing to get a job.
Working Gear transforms the life of people when they put on a suit or when they find the gear they need to go to that job. I feel so fortunate myself, I can’t imagine the feeling of not feeling adequate, and I think wearing the right clothing provides a whole new level of confidence for people. There have been a couple of instances when we give guys clothing and they say: “this is so amazing; you just don’t know what this means for me”. They are so thankful. It’s not easy to take charity. I feel so privileged to be in a position to be able to give back.
What would you say to others who could join as sponsors or volunteers?
Sometimes people wait for the right opportunity to give back, but there is no perfect opportunity. Anything you can do at any time makes a difference.
We’d like to extend our sincere gratitude to Alyssa for reaching out to us. For putting in the volunteer hours every week and for encouraging her team to do so as well. You are a valuable member of our community.
Also, we’d like to extend our gratitude to Indochino for their continued support over the years.
Working Gear is always in search of like-minded companies to develop partnerships with. For more information on how you can get involved contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our program has shown growth and success this last 12 years. With the addition of our partner organizations, our ability to turn a box full of donations into suits for job interviews, office-appropriate clothing or specialized worksite gear has surprised even us. The synergy is a beautiful thing.
This is why our annual fundraiser #GEARtoGive is such an important event. We get the opportunity to celebrate the community coming together for a common goal. Our cash sponsors, auction donors, volunteers, and ticket holders for one night get to share stories and remember why bringing the smallest privileges to those scaling up the ladder of life feels insatiably good.
Our Sponsors make Working Gear possible
In the spirit of celebration help us call out of our cherished cash sponsors to offer deep gratitude.
Norton Rose Fulbright Law brings their business principles of quality, unity, and integrity to a global serving of the industries that affect everyone’s livelihood. Healthcare, finance, Infrastructure and more. We are so pleased to have their support.
Our sponsors, like Leaders International help us provide the essential donations and resources we need to thrive.
It is no surprise that Neighbourhood Holdings has offered its support. They are in the business of supporting people with all they need toward their first mortgage. Enriching life is a shared common purpose.
Sponsors like Cleantech Service Group Ltd. operates locally and throughout British Columbia to managers of properties. Providing peace of mind is their specialty. We appreciate the peace they have awarded us.
Sequoia’s Mergers & Acquisitions is focused on getting the best deal for your business just as we look to get the best experience for our clients with their support.
Bold Construction‘s passion and adding their strength to invigorate communities is why we believe they are worthy additions to any project.
And we will never forget the partnerships, in-kind donations and power of volunteerism that drives our spirit and makes us proud to be a part of Working Gear.
Nude Vodka Soda
Stanley Park Brewery
Donations are about compassion for our collective community nobly driving humanity forward. We endeavor to make life for our clients better and these groups show us that they care about what we do and respect how we do it.
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.