FANCY a couple of gin cocktails and afternoon tea for €25 with the money going to a good cause?
Dress for Success (DFS) is hosting a fundraiser at Electric on the South Mall on Saturday, July 13.
This voluntary organisation, which supports women trying to get into the workplace, was founded in New York in 1997. Each of its branches, in 150 cities all over the world, is an independent affiliate that has to fund itself. The Cork city CEO of DFS is Carmel O’Keeffe, who is the May Cork Person of the Month.
Dress for Success is entirely dependent on fundraisers and donations, and dresses women for job interviews in nearly-ew clothes donated by professional women. It also gives women makeovers and blow-drys, all entirely free.
The organisation has the backing of a number of hairdressers who wash and blow dry the women’s hair on the day of their interviews. Each client receives about €1,500 worth of services (including CV advice and IT skills). Boots, who are also on board as a partner, gives each client €65 worth of free make-up.
Margaret Smith recently came on board with Dress for Success. Having worked as a self-employed social media expert marketing various brands, she is lending her expertise to the voluntary organisation with the aim of raising its profile.
Ballincollig-based Margaret, a mother-of-two grown up children, is feeling very grateful to have her health back and wants to give something back to society. She already fosters dogs for Dog Action Welfare and does food runs for the homeless in Cork city.
She had been unwell for nearly two years, suffering from severe anaemia.
“I was so tired I couldn’t move,” said Margaret. “My iron and B6 levels were down to single digits. The doctor had never seen anyone so low in iron. It took ages for me to build up my levels because I wasn’t absorbing it for a while. But I was lucky enough not to have to go to hospital. All the treatment was done through my GP.”
Margaret also suffered from depression during her lengthy period of ill health.
“I didn’t understand why I was depressed until I realised that depression goes hand in hand with the condition I had. I had no energy or motivation.”
Now well again and highly motivated, Margaret is enjoying a new lease of life and feels “incredibly fortunate”.
She is going to continue doing voluntary work “until such time when I go into full time education. It’s something I always wanted to do.
“I plan to do business but will probably end up in marketing with a twist of psychology. I want to feed my soul and use my skills.”
As well as being a treat, the event at Electric is an opportunity to network.
“Networking is the name of the game,” says Margaret. She says that while women call into the DFS office on Patrick Street, looking for help with their CVs, “what they actually need is a little boost in self-confidence”.
She continued: We help them with sessions from life coaches and career coaches. It helps the women’s confidence, puts them in the right direction and it raises their expectations.
“The women can under-estimate what they can do. Some have a lot of experience in an area but they don’t have a qualification.
“Our coaches will guide them towards the education that will get them the results they need as quickly as possible.”
Now in its fifth year in Cork, Dress for Success has had more than 800 women coming through the door. There has been a 68% conversion into employment with a further 21% of women going into further education.
“DFS has clients from all backgrounds including immigrant women and women who’ve been in prison. The organisation is partnered with social welfare which sends women onto DFS to improve their chances of gaining employment.
“It’s all about empowering women. One of the coaches said she was dealing with six PH.d clients who had low self-esteem. They didn’t realise how they could move forward in their career. That’s where the coaching comes in.
“It’s about seeing what suits you and not necessarily what you think you should be doing. And it’s not just for the poorest of the poor. It’s for any woman who needs help and guidance in what she wants to do next.”
Margaret adds that DFS is looking to expand into more areas of need.
“There are women who are looking to go back to work after being at home for a long time. We’re trying to reach these people. We want them to know that what we’re offering isn’t so much a hand-out as a hand-up. We don’t treat anyone as a charity case.”
At the moment, DFS is appealing to women to donate clothes, particularly in size 16 and over.
It’s hoped the afternoon tea and gin tasting event will raise between €1,000-€2,000 which will cover the running costs of Dress for Success for the summer.
Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite.
Dress for Success Cork is at 123, Patrick Street. Tel: 021 4251769.