After a long gestation period and a soft opening earlier this year Dress for Success Illawarra officially launched its Illawarra branch and showroom at Warrawong on Thursday.
Illawarra Management Committee founder and chair Nicki Bowman said it was wonderful to be able to showcase the new premises at the Hope Centre and publicly thank the people who have made the Illawarra branch possible. And in doing so support of the charity’s ongoing mission to empower women.
Among those present were Dress for Success Sydney founder and patron Megan Etheridge and Dress For Success Sydney board chair Robyn de Szoeke.
“In June 2016 the board approved the establishment of this branch and then it was all systems go. That was the trigger for us to formally establish the Illawarra Management Committee,” Mrs Bowman said.
They then were able to hold the very first fundraising function in the Illawarra.
“I would like to thank Michelle Taylor, of Get Dressed Hire, and Rebecca Armstrong, of Culinarius. They organised the high-tea we held last year and again this year at Wollongong Art Gallery. And between those two events we raised over $5000 which is an extraordinary amount of money for a brand new charity,” she said.
That gave Dress For Success the momentum it needed to seek further funding to acquire the equipment it needed to set up the branch.
Mrs Bowman said that was where BlueScope came in with the help of people such as Craig Nealon.
“Colorbond turned 50 last year and had a special community grants program and we were the recipient of a $10,000 grant,” she said.
“The other thing BlueScope did was partner with one of its customers to provide Dress for Success with shelving and installations for its new showroom.
The $15,000 raised and the generosity of organisations such as the Hope Centre gave the Illawarra branch the ability to do everything it needed to get set up.
“We also got a big boost from Pillar Administration who kindly donated to us all the furniture such as cupboards, shelves, desks and chairs,” Mrs Bowman said.
“In March we opened our doors for the first time and had a soft opening so we could test how we operated and find the best way to service our clients. There are a number of referral agencies who have been referring clients to us since we began. We are so grateful to them because that is why we are here. And that is what we want. We want to help more and more people through our doors to take advantage of what we have to offer.”
Mrs Bowman also thanked the volunteers who made the operation of the showroom possible on a daily basis. “We have no paid staff in the Illawarra at the moment. They are here every week helping our clients, sorting our stock and ironing our clothes.”
The Dress for Success initiative started six years ago in Sydney to increase the employability of women across NSW.
The Illawarra branch will expand its mission to empower more women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional clothing, accessories and styling advice as well as the career development tools to help them thrive in work and life.
The registered charity also helps them attend training courses, job interviews and subsequent employment, feeling confident and appropriately dressed.
Dress for Success is essentially a service that helps break down barriers for women who have been out of the workforce.