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Cinderella Project for Grads and Free Clothing for Workers

Linda Crampton is a writer who is concerned about social issues. She hopes to encourage anyone who is able to do so to help people in need.

The Cinderella Project provides graduation dresses, outfits, and accessories for students in need.

The Cinderella Project provides graduation dresses, outfits, and accessories for students in need.

The Value of Donating Clothing to Charities

Donating clothing to a charity is a great way to help people. Charities either sell the clothing to raise money for their cause or give it to people who need it. Donations of special clothes such as prom dresses, graduation outfits, and work clothes can be very important for people who can't afford to purchase the items themselves.

In this article, I describe three clothing donation programs that operate in my community and provide outfits to those who need them. These programs or similar ones also operate in other parts of the world. I hope they spread to new areas. They can give people a boost in life at an important time. The aid can help people with a current problem and perhaps create a better future for them.

A lovely wrist corsage for a high school graduation ceremony

A lovely wrist corsage for a high school graduation ceremony

Overview of the Three Organizations

The organizations that I describe below aim to help males and females at different stages in their lives. The Cinderella Project in Vancouver, British Columbia, provides formal clothing and accessories to disadvantaged teenagers so that they can attend their graduation ceremony or prom with their peers. An important goal of the project is to encourage students to stay in school and to graduate.

Another helpful program in my area is the Dress for Success program, which currently operates in Canada, the United States, and other countries. The program provides professional clothing for low-income women so that they can go to job interviews. It also provides a selection of clothing for the women to wear at work once they get a job.

The Working Gear Clothing Society provides suitable work clothing for low-income men and women, including outfits for construction workers of both genders and office clothes “for the male form.”

High School Graduation: A Major Life Event

Graduation is a big moment in a teenager's life. In the high school where I taught, the students began planning for the event almost as soon as their Grade 12 year began (and sometimes even at the end of Grade 11). The ceremony was a goal that each year's grad class worked towards all year.

For the senior students in a high school, graduation is often a symbol of their entry into the adult world and the start of their life plan. There's a feeling that after graduation they will be able to control their own destiny in a way that has never been possible before.

Many grad ceremonies at North American High Schools are lavish events, especially those in large high schools. Grad day can be expensive for families. Despite being a modern city and a major tourist attraction, like many other cities Vancouver has its share of social problems. These include poverty and homelessness. For some families, simply getting the necessities of life can be a challenge. Buying a graduation outfit for their teenager is out of the question.

The Purpose of the Cinderella Project

The main goal of the Cinderella Project is to encourage students to stay in school and work towards graduation. If the students know that they will have a formal outfit to wear at their graduation event, they will be able to participate in the excitement leading up to the event as well as the event itself. The project aims to promote inclusiveness for all young people—both females and males—and to celebrate their diversity and their courage.

In addition to providing clothing, the Cinderella Project provides Achievement Awards to students who may not be eligible for traditional scholarships. The aim of the financial awards is to help students with a special need in a specific way. The project wants to give a "hand up" to the students that they help instead of a handout.

The Cinderella Project was started in Vancouver in 1999, but similar programs operate in many other parts of the world. Clicking on the “Similar Projects” link on the Cinderella Project’s website reveals links for related sites in Canada and the United States. The Vancouver organization is a registered charity and is run entirely by volunteers.

Who Qualifies for the Cinderella Project?

"Cinderellas" and "cinderfellas" are nominated by school counsellors, teachers, principals, or social workers. They are chosen based on hardship. According to the project website:

  • almost half of the students participating in the project are chronically ill or are physically or developmentally challenged
  • over two thirds of the students who are able to work go to jobs both before school starts and after it ends to help support their families
  • many students are taking care of younger siblings with little help from their parents or are caring for parents who have problems themselves

How Does the Project Work?

The Cinderella Project is open to students in Vancouver and those in nearby communities. Students know that they are part of the project well in advance of the graduation event because they have to fill out an application in the fall of their graduating year. Applications are generally sent to school counsellors in late October or early November. The applications aren't available online. A link to the project's website is given below. The site has a "Contact Us" link in the About menu, so people can ask questions if they have any.

The project accepts donations of new and used clothing and accessories suitable for a grad ceremony (or prom/ball, depending on how the grad event is organized), as well as cash donations to help the organization operate. Some of the money is used to buy clothing for students with physical problems that prevent most donated clothing from fitting properly. The students choose the clothing and accessories at a special event called a Boutique Day.

The Cinderella Project sees Boutique Day not as a handout but rather a way to acknowledge the fact that these outstanding students have achieved a significant milestone and overcome significant challenges to do so.

— The Cinderella Project Website

The Boutique Day Event

In the late winter or early spring, the event called Boutique Day is held in a hotel ballroom. The event is described in the video above. The beautiful gowns, shoes, purses, and jewellery for the girls and suits, tuxedos, shirts, and cumberbands for the boys are on display for the grads to examine and choose. Girls and boys have their hair styled, and girls have their makeup done.

All of the students have the opportunity to discuss their future plans with a volunteer mentor (a "fairy godmother" or "godfather"). The godparents are meant to be positive role models and have had helpful experiences. Some know sign language or have had experience working with visually impaired people, for example.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has caused the Cinderella Project to make adjustments to their plans, but they are still celebrating graduation. In 2022, they presented gift boxes to grads, as they did in 2021. Boutique Day may not occur until the pandemic has subsided. When this article was last updated, a decision about the next event's occurrence hadn't been made.

Special clothes may be needed by some people after their high school years. The organizations described below help adults who require specific outfits.

Dress for Success provides suitable clothing for a woman to wear when she enters the workforce.

Dress for Success provides suitable clothing for a woman to wear when she enters the workforce.

The Dress for Success Program

The Dress for Success program began in New York City in 1996 with the goal of promoting financial independence for disadvantaged women. The program helps women obtain a job and keep it. Dress for Success provides continuous support for the women and also provides professional development tools. It operates in Canada, the United States, and Europe.

The Dress for Success program in Vancouver has a career centre, which provides resources and instructional services for women. Here they can learn to create a resume, experience mock interviews, learn about managing their finances, and practice using computers and other equipment.

Women are referred to the program by organizations such as educational institutions, government agencies, immigration services, homeless shelters, and domestic violence shelters. Dress for Success is a registered charity in Vancouver.

Nancy Lublin and Dress for Success

Dress for Success was started by Nancy Lublin with a $5000 inheritance that she received from her great grandfather. She wanted to help low-income women take charge of their life. According to the U.S. website, the not-for-profit organization has 145 offices in 24 countries. The website is available in multiple languages. Lublin doesn’t appear to be associated with the project any more, but her creation has been very helpful.

The Dress for Success organization has established the Professional Women's Group, or PWG, which offers women ongoing help in their working lives. The women can attend meetings at any PWG group in any country where it's available and can obtain individual advice from mentors.

Lublin also created "Do Something", an organization that helps young people to improve conditions in their community. The teens in the program are involved in a wide range of projects that help people in various age groups and with different problems. Projects also involve recycling and helping pets.

The Working Gear Clothing Society

The Dress for Success program provides free work clothes for women only. Another Vancouver charity called Working Gear provides free work clothes for low-income men who want to find work after having been unemployed or underemployed for a long time. The clothes include business suits and shoes, clothing and heavy, steel-toed boots for construction workers, and other items. The society also supplies safety gear for women who want to get a job that requires it, which Dress for Success doesn't provide. A recent initiative started by the organization is barber service.

The aim of Working Gear is not only to help men and some women to get a job but also to improve their self esteem. The Working Gear Clothing Society is run by volunteers and is supported by people who donate clothing, shoes, money, or time. Clients are referred to the society by community agencies and visit by appointment. Donation of clothing is also by appointment. The centre is open during limited hours at the moment. More information is provided on the society’s website. The addresses of all of the websites that I’ve mentioned are given at the end of this article.

Working Gear supplies business suits for low income men or men returning to work after a period of unemployment.

Working Gear supplies business suits for low income men or men returning to work after a period of unemployment.

It's important to contact the organizations mentioned above before visiting their offices. Their website, email address, or telephone number should be helpful. All of the organizations in Vancouver are operating, but the coronavirus pandemic means that some special rules and procedures are in place. This statement probably applies to clothing donation programs in other areas. Hopefully, the situation will soon return to normal.

Starting a Clothing Donation Program

Projects involving donated clothing for special events may be in operation in a city near you. If not, you could become an affiliate or start a similar project in your community if the idea interests you and if you have the time. You may find that your friends and acquaintances are willing to lend a hand. The websites mentioned in the links below give ideas for helping others with donated clothes. In addition, the Dress for Success worldwide site describes how to become an affiliate of the organization.

The Vancouver programs are wonderful because they help people to improve their lives, either directly or indirectly. They are run by volunteers who want to make a difference in their community. There is another benefit to volunteering besides aiding people in difficulty, however. Volunteers often find that by helping others they are helping themselves. The satisfaction and joy that may be experienced when helping other people is a wonderful feeling.

Donations of clothing and specialized footwear are appreciated. Both men and women require boots in order to perform certain jobs.

Donations of clothing and specialized footwear are appreciated. Both men and women require boots in order to perform certain jobs.

References and Resources

© 2013 Linda Crampton