By TOM GODFREY
Marginalized Toronto men and women are being given a helping hand with new clothing, personal care products and even cell phones by a non-profit agency that helps them find jobs to get back on their feet.
Many of those helped are from the Caribbean and other countries and have undergone life-altering experiences and are rejoining the workforce.
Up to 600 job seekers annually, many who are new Canadians or women in transition, are taught interviewing skills and how to groom and present themselves during day-long workshops that are held three times a month at Windfall Basics, on Connell Court in Etobicoke.
Toronto image consultant, Cindy Roemer, has helped to groom and coach about 2,000 of the men and women as they prepare for job interviews.
Roemer, who is a Windfall program manager, helps the job seekers improve their etiquette, grooming and selection of proper business attire for interviews.
“We are the finishing school for many of them,” she told Share in an interview. “This is the final frontier for most of the people because they already have resumes and are ready to work.”
The “Suitable Impressions” workshop helps clients to improve their confidence, appearance and communication skills.
“People come here and we get them job ready,” said Roemer. “They leave here with more skills and confidence in themselves.”
After every workshop, clients can each choose six items of new work attire, personal care products and a cell phone with prepaid card given to them by Rogers Uptown Wireless to help in their job search.
“People are more empowered and have more confidence when they walk out of our door,” said Roemer. “A lot of them are new Canadians who are having a hard time finding jobs.”
The agency, which has been around for 22 years, distributes more than 900,000 items of clothing and basic needs each year that exceeds $28 million in value.
Windfall obtains new surplus clothing from major retailers due to changing stock, seasons or style. That clothing is sorted and sent to a network of youth, men and women shelters across Toronto, where they are distributed free to the homeless or needy.
A large section of their 8,000-square-feet warehouse contains racks of new clothing and other gear that are donated to job seekers.
“A lot of the people we work with do find jobs,” said Roemer. “I would say more than 50 per cent of them get jobs in their fields.”
One woman, Yvonne, who is from Jamaica, was almost in tears after receiving a gift bag that contained health care products, cosmetics and some costume jewelry after a workshop.
“These are all expensive brand name clothes and makeup that we are getting,” she said excitedly. “Where else can we get these goods for free?”
Yvonne said she is getting her life back together after having to flee with her young children from an abusive relationship.
Julie Young, a program co-ordinator, said clients can attend talks by experts on personal finances, personal hygiene and health care.
“Every client receives more than $700 in clothing and personal care items when they leave,” she said. “They are empowered and pumped up when they leave.”
Members of the public are invited to visit Windfall to celebrate the fourth anniversary of the program on Friday, November 28 from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The charity also operates Windfall Brides Boutique, which sells new wedding dresses at reduced prices and provides training to women in running a small business.
They are also involved in providing free winter jackets to keep children warm this winter.
Windfall has won awards from the Toronto Community Foundation and in 1996 was voted as one of the best business charity partnerships in Canada.
The non-profit also set a Guinness World Record in 2010 for the largest group of people in one location dressed as brides.