New program readies men for job-seeking success

(l-r) Ready for Success Program Director Gary Veazie, Terry Robinson, Paul Benson, Walter Walls, Greg Skinner, Mohammed Farah and Melvin Timms -Photos by James L. Stroud, Jr.

Are you an adult male living in the Twin Cities metro area? Are you looking for work, but unable to afford clothing for your next job interview? Do you need to get work-ready? Are you ready to be successful?

If you said yes to any or all of these questions, then you might be interested in the Ready for Success Men’s Program created by the Episcopal Community Services (ECS) of Minnesota.

The Episcopal Community Services’ (ECS) Ready for Success Men’s Program provides low-income men with barely used and new business and business casual clothing, accessories and personal care items to help prepare them for job interviews and the workplace. All items given to the clients are free of charge.
In 2008, ECS created the Ready for Success Men’s Program as a pilot program with two locations — Minneapolis (425 Oak Grove Street, 55403) and St. Paul (Goodwill Easter Seals Minnesota, 553 Fairview Avenue North, 55104).

The original Ready for Success Program for women has been serving low-income women since 1997 and has been a program of ECS since 2001. In January 2010, the men’s program became a permanent part of ECS. The Ready for Success Men’s Program provides individual appointments and personal shoppers for each client.
Clients of the program are men completing job skills training and re-entry programs. Referred by case managers, these men are ready for employment.

MSR made two visits to the Minneapolis location. The first time was to observe clients scheduled for their personalized sessions, in what the volunteers referred to as the “Man Cave.” Experienced personal shoppers/volunteers give clients orientation about the process.

Clients get to choose from hundreds of sport coats, slacks, dress shirts, ties and shoes. The room is set up just like a retail clothing store, with dressing rooms and mirrors. All of the five to seven volunteers wear suits and carry measuring tape. These items have been inspected, cleaned and are then specially fit to clients.

According to Gary Veazie, program manager, “In one hour after the clients shop, I can see a positive transformation and witness them change their self-esteem.”
Veazie also states that clients are allowed to chose one suit, two sports coats, two pairs of slacks, three dress shirts, one coat, three neckties, one pair of dress shoes, one pair of casual shoes, unlimited casual clothing, one of everything in the personal care section, two brand new pairs of underwear, two new pairs of dress socks and two new pairs of sweat socks.

After choosing items that best suit their own style, clients are then able to choose items from the “bonus rack.” These items include khakis, denim pants and collared shirts. Additionally, clients also receive new personal care items like shampoo, deodorant, shaving kits, socks and underwear.

Volunteers and donations are vital to serving the clients of the Ready for Success Men’s Program. Volunteer opportunities include being a personal shopper, doing clothing intake and care, and fundraising. Benson went to the St. Paul location a while ago and was so impressed, he asked Veazie if he could become a volunteer.

Benson has been helping clients and the program. He has retail experience as an employee of the Men’s Warehouse clothing store. Employing his skills as a closer, Benson was able to negotiate a few key donations. According to both Veazie and Benson, the Men’s Warehouse donated a large amount of clothing estimated at around $250,000. Benson also made contact with the Minnesota Vikings and was able to get several leather jackets with the team logos on them.

May 26, 2011 was MSR’s second visit for the grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony. The event highlighted the new improvements to the boutique, a.k.a. the “Man Cave,” which was renamed again that morning to the “Mantique.” The Wells Fargo Foundation gave the Ready for Success Program $15,000 for cosmetic touch-ups like fixing the ceiling and a few decorative art pieces.

The Ready for Success Men’s Program will accept clean, gently used and new professional and business casual clothing, shoes, belts, khakis, socks, seasonal outerwear and undergarments. Sizes extra-large and larger are especially helpful.

For more information about the Ready for Success Men’s Program, volunteering or scheduling your donation, contact Gary Veazi at 952-836-6722 or gveazie4247@msn.com.

James L Stroud, Jr. welcomes reader responses to jlstroud@spokesman-recorder.com.

 

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About James L. Stroud Jr

James L. Stroud Jr. is a contributing writer and photographer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.

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