Mercy Campbell knows the value Dress for Success. After arriving in Canada from the Philippines in 1996, she was one of the first clients 20 years ago when the organisation began in 1999 working out the basement of the St Francis Church on Main Street. “I was doing a job search workshop through the YWCA that helped single parents to find jobs and one of the counsellors explained there was a new organisation called Dress for Success offering free clothing to women looking for jobs so all of us were like ‘YES!’” recalls Campbell.
“When I arrived they assigned me with a volunteer dressing consultant. She was fully focused on me, she made sure I was comfortable, she made me feel like I’m an important person, and that experience alone, made me believe in myself. During the appointment, we found some really nice clothes for me to try. They had a lot of new makeup, purses, and accessories. I was a single mom just starting my career search and the feeling that I was somewhere I didn’t have to worry about money, gave me self-confidence. I left with a few outfits and a few accessories. I was all dressed up and felt really good. I went to my interview and I got the job. That was my first experience with Dress for Success.”
The following year Campbell was invited back to join the inaugural year of the Professional Women’s Group (PWG). “When I received the call offering me an opportunity in their pilot program I said ‘okay,’ and then ‘what is it?’” she laughs. “They explained it was a program for women who’ve just started in a new career or new job and want tools to become more successful. I hesitated when I heard the time commitment, but during that time of my life I didn’t turn anything down. I took advantage of every opportunity to support my future.”
From 2000 – 2002 Campbell was an active member of PWG. “My mentor was amazing, she inspired me to get where I am right now, a successful accountant and bookkeeper. She had a similar story to me, a single mom pursuing her accounting career. She had built herself into successful career person and inspired me to be like her.” In those first years, PWG offered Campbell and other clients leadership workshops, career training and financial management skills.
In 2003 Campbell was asked to share her story at with her peers currently undergoing the PWG program. Since that speaking opportunity Campbell has shared her story at workshops with several PWG groups. “I’ve been involved in Dress for Success on and off since the beginning. I told them if there’s a chance I can help in any way, I want to do it. I’m so impressed with the way they’ve grown over the past 20 years. I spoke to a PWG group last year and was amazed to see the diversity and the willingness of the women to use the tools offered.”
Campbell has come a long way since she first walked through the doors at Dress for Success. “When I met the organisation I was a single mom with a special needs child living paycheque to paycheque. In that first year I applied for a credit card and had to send $200 to the bank to receive a $75 credit card. I took that chance because at a PWG financial management workshop they explained the importance of credit history in order to apply for future loans, mortgages etc. I took that chance even though I didn’t really have the money. That was 20 years ago. I now have two houses and mortgages and three cars, all paid for. Because I used the tools from PWG to manage my finances I now have options.”
“PWG allowed me to believe in myself. The coaching I received made me focus on my goals and realise what I’m capable of,” shares Campbell. “The outfit I initially received was important but the coaching, mentorship and friendship is what lasts forever, it changes a person. They give you confidence and tell you, you can do it and I’ve done it.”