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$10,000 CommBank boost for FICE

Cire’s First Impressions Clothing Exchange, and financially disadvantaged women across the region, has received a $10,000 boost from the CommBank Staff Foundation.

The social enterprise has received the grant to help cover the operating costs of its Mooroolbark retail outlet for 12 months, allowing the FICE team more time and less stress to focus on its mission of empowering women.

The grant represents a high profile injection of support and confidence in FICE and acknowledgement of the incredible work it is doing to help women of all ages who are long term unemployed/financially disadvantaged, even more so given the challenging times in which we live.

‘The grant helps validate what we are doing for women and also recognises all the hard work that has gone into getting FICE off the ground since it was launched almost 12 months ago.’ said Renee Cooke, one of the FICE coordinators and trainers.

‘It reaffirms that FICE has a real purpose and place to help meet the pressing need in the community to make a positive difference for women in so many aspects of their lives. The support we offer through the FICE experience is needed more than ever given the far-reaching impact of the pandemic.’

FICE was nominated for the grant by Janine Haag, Savings Specialist at Commonwealth Bank Mooroolbark, who has become one of FICE’s greatest advocates.

“I love what FICE is doing to empower and support disadvantaged women, giving them the confidence they need to take the next important step in their lives. It’s great to be able to support FICE…our Mooroolbark branch team is so excited about the grant success, particularly during this difficult time.”

The success and need for such an initiative such as First Impressions has been highlighted by the COVID restrictions, particularly through Cire’s social media platforms, averaging a reach of 25,000 reach each month and 4,000 engagements. A virtual skills workshop session had a reach of more than 5000, approximately 600 engagements and more than 2000 views so is clearly helping keep women connected and supported during restriction periods.

FICE was initially set up to provide affordable quality clothing suitable for job interviews and other important occasions, and an opportunity for long term unemployed women to upskill within an operating retail space to increase their employability. About 40 women have upskilled through the shop as volunteers or through a work-for-the-dole partnership with the Salvation Army’s Employment Plus while hundreds more have walked away with new additions to their wardrobe.

However, the FICE experience goes far deeper than affordable quality clothing and is constantly evolving and diversifying to meet the needs identified by the women themselves.

Under the umbrella of Cire Services, FICE is unique to the region with its innovative and bold approach to empowering women and fostering meaningful community engagement. It emerged from Cire Training’s Women’s Warehouse Program, for women and by women. Since opening in mid-2019 FICE’s reach has extended to domestic violence affected women, homeless women, lonely and socially isolated women – and engaged enormous support and interaction with the more affluent women of the area.

Drawing on Cire’s overall expertise, resources and infrastructure across its services, FICE helps provide access to a myriad of flexible learning opportunities, education and training, community programs and services and referrals to external agencies where needed.

The broader community has enthusiastically embraced the project with volunteer mentors assisting the women on their journeys and regularly donating good quality clothing to the shop.

First Impressions participants have been touched by the random acts of kindness and help from strangers, seldom experienced before. This community connectedness has allowed many women of the Yarra Ranges and surrounds to work together as a joint collective in order to improve the financial, emotional and wellness of hundreds of women.

As the initiative gains greater momentum, it is anticipated that thousands of women will be benefit from FICE in some way.

FICE’s real-life training space, mentors 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, and highlighting the value of First Impressions, Cire secured a work-for-the-dole partnership with local job provider, Employment Plus. Pre COVID-19, Employment Plus, estimated there were more than 1205 unemployed women on their books throughout the Yarra Ranges at any one time; this figure has increased dramatically in recent times and is expected to continue the upward spiral given the impact of the pandemic on the economy. Employment Plus is just one of the job providers in the region so the unemployment rates are much higher.

Through the Employment Plus partnership, FICE has welcomed its first group of women from the local Chin community who will use the work-for-the-dole program at FICE to improve their English skills and also to interact with other members of the Chin community who visit the shop daily, and other women.

First Impressions 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, Selby and Seville Community Houses, Healesville Living and Learning Centre, the Rotary Club of Wandin and Good360 and its network of partners particularly L’Oreal.

It is worth noting that the initiative has a strong sustainability and environmentally friendly footprint with items being donated, recycled and reused.

First Impressions Clothing Exchange joins more than 170 other recipients across Australia to receive one of 205 grants being awarded by CommBank Staff Foundation. These organisations have been nominated by a CBA employee to receive a much-needed financial boost of $10,000.

Now in its 102ndyear, the CommBank Staff Foundation’s $2 million Community Grants Program is made up of fortnightly contributions by CBA staff, which are matched by the bank.

FICE was one of more than 170 recipients across Australia to be awarded a grant by the foundation.

Please note the FICE’s Mooroolbark shop is currently open under Victoria’s Stage 3 COVID restrictions and adheres to the government’s guidelines at all times.

Little Cups of Care overflow with Mother’s Day joy

‘Little Cups of Care’ gave local mums momentous pleasure on Mother’s Day, as well as great joy for the children delivering the surprise packs, thanks to an initiative by Cire Children’s Services.

With donations from the Good360 network, Cire staff made up almost 200 care packs so childcare services and Out of School Hours Care children could give their mums some unexpected ‘thank you’ treats for Mother’s Day.

‘Many of our mums are doing it tougher this year because of COVID-19. We made up the packs because we wanted to do something special for them and show our care and support,’ said Diletta Lanciana, Executive Manager, Cire Children’s Services.

‘Also, with the majority of children remote learning, many of the traditional Mother’s Day stalls were not held at schools, or the children were unable to attend.’

Many families in the Yarra Ranges have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and some of the goods in the care packs were a small way of helping to reduce financial pressures.

Little Cups of Care overflow with Mother’s Day joyThe packs included an assortment of make-up from NYX, Argan and L’Oreal; often the last items on a shopping list. The ‘Little Cups of Care’ was overflowing with blush, eyeliner, anti-ageing eye cream, lipsticks and glosses, Colgate toothpaste, Banana Boat sunscreen, a Jamie Oliver cup, and beautiful ribbon.

Good 360 is a not-for-profit initiative that helps match make surplus new goods with Australians facing challenging life circumstances. The goods are donated to Good360 by socially responsible companies and distributed by registered NFPs like Cire.

Cire has received a diverse range of items valued at several hundred thousands of dollars that benefit those who access services and programs through our core operations: Cire Children’s Services, Cire Community School, and Cire Training and Hubs.

Little Cups of Care overflow with Mother’s Day joy

Amanda Quilty (Director of our OSHC programs) putting the packs together

A bit of history about Mother’s day

Mother’s Day is an occasion which is celebrated in various parts of the world to express respect, honour, and love towards mothers. The day is an event to honour the contribution of mothers, acknowledge the efforts of maternal bonds and the role of mothers in our society

Its origins can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honour of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele, but the clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the early Christian festival known as ‘Mothering Sunday’.

American Anna Jarvis is also credited for a designated day to celebrate Mother’s Day. In 1908, she held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. … In 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day, held on the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honour mothers.

Toilet paper donation delivers much joy

Who’d ever thought a gift of toilet paper would bring joy to the faces of so many people.

That’s been the case in the Yarra Ranges where Cire distributed hundreds of packs of toilet

Cire Vacation Care - Woori Yallock

Mum Kiah and child Tasma (YOSHC and Woori Vacation Care) with Quilton

paper on behalf of Quilton as part of its coronavirus campaign to support people most in need during the unprecedented paper shortage when commodities such as toilet paper were like ‘gold’.

The gesture certainly brightened the days of people ranging from families where there has been the loss of employment and with children unable to comprehend the need to limit their use of certain items;  to elderly people and those experiencing the challenges of mental health issues and have been too scared to leave their homes to shop for basics.

One family with four children was ‘over the moon’ when presented with two packs of toilet paper whilst an elderly woman, living on her own and relying on others to shop for her, said her neighbours had each given her a roll to ensure she had some supply but it was ‘worrying’.

Quilton was quick to launch a campaign to donate 1,000,000 rolls of toilet paper to those Australians who needed it most, in response to the initial panic buying and paper shortage crisis.

Cire was linked up with Quilton through its valued partnership with by Good360, a not for profit that receives surplus new goods from companies and manufacturers and distributes them to registered charities to ensure they reach the people most in need. Cire, and the communities it serves, has benefitted enormously from the Good360 network.

‘It’s been our absolute pleasure to help communities throughout the Yarra Ranges. Cire is uniquely local and has a long and established reputation and history in the region and that’s why we chose Cire to help distribute the toilet paper to those who needed it most, the elderly and the disadvantaged,’ said Quilton Campaign Spokesperson, Matthew Ngai.

Morgans Winery and Distillery at Seville

Michele and Simon Gunther, owners of Morgans Winery and Distillery at Seville

In a further act of COVID kindness, Cire received much-appreciated support from Morgans Winery and Distillery at Seville in the form of hand sanitiser, one of the ‘new golds’ in this C-19 environment. Morgans has been producing the sanitiser to help meet demand, as well as provide ongoing employment for its team.

The hand sanitiser is essential particularly for Cire Children’s Services which has continued to remain open, and Cire Community School which now has some students attending its Mount Evelyn campus.

Cire Children’s Services operates long daycare with integrated kindergarten programs, and occasional care, providing vital support for parents particularly those working in essential services. The availability and regular use of hand sanitiser and regular disinfecting of all areas help minimise any risk of C-19, helps reassure and instill confidence in all our users and also fosters a culture of safe practice.

Cire CEO, Gus Seremetis said it is tremendous to see how people are reaching out and supporting each other in such challenging times, and in all shapes and forms.

‘Cire feels privileged to receive any form of assistance that helps us to continue to deliver services to those most in need, to the best of our ability, and in the safest possible way for both our staff and users,’ she said.

 “We particularly value our ongoing partnerships with organisations such as Good360 which normally distributes surplus new products to NFPs but is sourcing items in high demand to help provide relief where it is most needed.”