Posts

FICE goes mobile

Cire Training’s First Impressions Clothing Exchange (FICE) has gone mobile with the launch of a pop-up roadshow to connect with even more women in the region who would benefit from the FICE experience.

FICE goes mobileThanks to a Yarra Ranges Council 2021 Community Grant, FICE is reaching out to women who may otherwise find it a challenge to visit the Mooroolbark shop to access affordable quality clothing and, equally important, a range of support services and the opportunity to connect with others.

Cire’s Yarra Junction Community Hub hosted the first pop up event on Wednesday 28 April with others to follow at the Healesville Living and Learning Centre on Wednesday 12 May, Selby Community House on Wednesday 26 May and Warburton Redwood Centre on Tuesday 8 June.

The Yarra Junction event created much interest with its high visibility set up on the pavement outside the hub. Quite a few customers bought clothing and also received on-the-spot assistance through services such as resume writing.

FICE trainer Renee Cook (pictured) said it was great to see so much interest in FICE and to answer questions about the social enterprise which has gone from strength to strength since opening its shop front at Mooroolbark in mid-2019.

She also said there is now a permanent rack of FICE clothing for purchase at the Yarra Junction Hub. It will be refreshed regularly so spread the word. Donations can also be dropped off at the hub.

FICE emerged from Cire Training’s successful Women’s Warehouse program, BY long-term unemployed women in the Yarra Ranges region FOR local women experiencing financial disadvantage.

FICE is unique to our region with its innovative and bold approach to empowering women and fostering meaningful community engagement.

The initiative provides women with affordable quality clothing suitable for job interviews or other important occasions. However, the benefits go much deeper. Through volunteering in the shop, women gain a huge boost to their confidence and self-esteem, a sense of purpose and pride as well as a raft of skills sought by employees, particularly in the retail sector. The experience also provides pathways to other support services and referrals, training and potential employment opportunities.

The broader community has enthusiastically embraced the project as volunteer mentors to assist the women on their journeys as well as donations. First Impressions participants have been touched by the random acts of kindness and help from strangers, seldom experienced before.

First Impressions is a real-life training space, mentoring women to stand tall by preparing them for employment. Experienced trainers provide ongoing support to instil confidence and develop the skills necessary in the paid workforce, and transferable between jobs, as well as overall support. Some of the tangible benefits include project management/store management/retail skills/merchandising, sewing, design, and customer service/communication.

Of significance, Cire is looking forward to renewing its work-for-the dole partnership with local job provider, Employment Plus, in the not too distant future. Volunteers gain recognition for their hands-on work experience as well as access to lifelong employability skills, assisting the transition toward sustainable employment.

FICE supporters include Yarra Ranges Shire Council, Voices of Women (VoW), a not-for-profit organisation based in the Yarra Valley that provides advocacy for women in the region, the Australian Women Donors Network, Good360 and L’Oreal and the Commonwealth Bank.

Runaway success for FICE Fashion Show

A sell-out fashion show on 12 February was the perfect event to celebrate a runaway first 12 months for Cire’s First Impressions Clothing Exchange (FICE).

An enthusiastic crowd of more than 50 women gathered for the fun at FICE’s Mooroolbark Terrace shop where they were treated to a taste of the quality fashion on offer as volunteer models gave it their all on the catwalk.

Everyone was on a high to have the opportunity to come together face-to-face to enjoy each other’s company as well as acknowledge the success of the social enterprise in helping provide women in need with positive pathways.

Local traders were also ecstatic because the event created such an exciting and most welcome vibe at The Terrace.

The event featured six volunteers modelling casual, business and formal outfits and stories of how FICE had given them a sense of purpose and confidence and helped them upskill and/or find employment.

Special guests included the multi-talented Kerrie Stanley, makeup artist for ABC Breakfast Television and award-winning milliner and who is also working on the production of Harry Potter, the Musical in Melbourne. Kerrie shared some of her make up tips with those present. Other special guests included Cr Sophie Todorov from Yarra Ranges Council, Alexandra Hale, owner and director of Johnstone and Reimer Lawyers, one of FICE’s gold-level sponsors, and Cire CEO Gus Seremetis.

FICE emerged from Women’s Warehouse, a Cire Training initiative. It is the brainchild of long-term unemployed women in the Yarra Ranges for women experiencing financial disadvantage.  FICE offers access to affordable clothing suitable for job interviews and other important occasions and equally important, the opportunity to upskill by volunteering in the shop and through mentoring and additional training and support networks and referrals.

Those at the recent first birthday fashion show learned about the growing community support and acknowledgement for FICE and its mission. Women throughout the Yarra Ranges have supported the shop from day one with donations of quality clothing. This gives other women, not normally able to access such quality items, the opportunity to purchase them at a much lower price and help boost their self-esteem.

The fashion show was made possible by a grant from Yarra Ranges Council which has also awarded funding for a mobile FICE service in more isolated communities this year. Last year FICE received a $10,000 grant from the Commonwealth Bank to assist with operating costs.

Other supporters include Good360 and Lilydale Big W and Bunnings.

Bunnings Lilydale donated lucky door prizes for the fashion show and all those who attended received a handbag donated by Big W Lilydale filled with other donated goodies.

A huge thank you to all our volunteers and models (Mary, Sarah, Karon, Maryanne, Donna and Tammi).

Like to know more, visit the FICE webpage

The First Impressions Clothing Exchange Grand Opening!

The First Impressions Clothing Exchange is a bright and colourful second-hand store adding joy and laughter to the Mooroolbark Terrace Shopping Centre. A dazzling array of clothing racks, laden with hidden treasures, welcome those who stumble across the First Impressions shop-front.

On Valentine’s Day, visitors to their grand opening event included Mayor Cr Richard Higgins, who stopped by to cut the ribbon and meet the team!

Operating as a small business run by women experiencing long-term unemployment, First Impressions builds on the skills of its volunteer staff to enhance their employability in addition to providing opportunities to connect with their peers and with the community. Run as part of Cire Training’s Small Business course, experienced trainers oversee the day-to-day operations of the store. At the same time, the dedicated training space helps women to build real-life experience, develop skills and gain the confidence needed to enter the workforce successfully.

For customers, the clothing exchange offers a selection of quality, affordable women’s clothing covering every occasion from casual wear to formal events! First Impressions also provide a hire service, with reasonably priced items available for those who need a short-term wardrobe for job interviews or new jobs.

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Mayor Higgins noted that “the crowd here today validates the importance of this service to local women”. With attendees from multiple local organisations, including Anchor Housing Support and Employment Plus, as well as customers, shop owners, volunteers and supporters, the community truly showed their support for this wonderful initiative. Mayor Higgins also mentioned- with a note of relief! – that his wife was combing her wardrobe to make a donation of her own.

The event hosted numerous speakers, including Donna Fairweather of the Yarra Ranges Council, a newly appointed ambassador for the store and Gus Seremetis, CEO of Cire Services, the main sponsor of the First Impressions Clothing Exchange program. Gus was so moved by the testimonials of the women involved that she generously extended Cire’s financial support, providing a further three months of funding.

One of those testimonials came from Karon, a program participant, who shared her moving story with the audience. When asked how many job applications she’d submitted prior to her time with First Impressions, she responded: “there were too many to count”. After years of being ignored and rejected, her involvement with the program, along with the support she received from Employment Plus, rebuilt her self-confidence.

This enabled Karon to move into paid employment successfully. However, she still heads down to the First Impressions Clothing Exchange several days per week, to visit with her newfound friends, browse the racks and to help with the store’s operations.

“It was a huge feat, and it was all hands on deck,” the store’s team leader, Renee Cooke of Cire Services, said about getting the shop up and running, “But it’s been so much fun too. This shop has made such a difference already in the lives of those who have created it, and we can’t wait to see what it’s future holds!”

For more updates on First Impressions, feel free to follow their Facebook page and Instagram account.