Courage Opens Doors
Cheryl-Ann is our spokesperson for our biggest fundraiser, IMPACT 360: Opening Doors on May 10th, 2017. She has been selected along with nine other women going through the Professional Women’s Group program, to be a part of the Fashion Show portion of the event. We interviewed Cheryl-Ann to learn more about her journey to IMPACT.
“I can still remember the first day I went to Dress for Success like it was yesterday,” shares client Cheryl-Ann Henning. “It was pouring rain; I had scraped money together out of my son’s milk money to catch the bus downtown and I walked in there not really knowing what to expect. I was greeted by an amazing volunteer who immediately made me feel better about myself because by that point I felt so beaten up physically, mentally and emotionally. I thought I was worthless and not going to make it to tomorrow let alone to the next interview. Dress for Success dressed me in an amazing outfit, a little black skirt with a Mexx floral top, boots and a jacket. The hour I spent there was so much fun. I began to feel like myself again; worthy, encouraged and confident, I could continue on.”
Cheryl-Ann was introduced to Dress for Success Vancouver in 2013 through the mentorship program at YWCA. After an acrimonious divorce, she found herself without her home and the business she had helped build, ostracized from her community, without custody of her son and recovering from an injury to her eye resulting from the domestic violence she had fled.
“I was trying to re-enter the job market as a mature worker. I returned to University and completed my degree thinking that was going to make the difference in my job search but unfortunately it made no difference at all,” tells Cheryl-Ann. “Apparently when you haven’t worked in the formal job market as a professional for over 10 years, had a child and run your own business from your home, you are no longer of value. To assist my job search efforts, I joined the mentorship program at YWCA.”
Through her participation in the YWCA Cheryl-Ann was referred to Dress for Success. With her new interview outfit and the help of her mentor from SFU she got her spark back, and with it, the courage to carry on. A job at the Capilano University Bookstore was the turning point. Once she’d secured a job she went back to Dress for Success for another outfit and from there success was within reach.
Cheryl-Ann now works in the Registrar’s Office at Capilano University as a domestic student recruiter. She spends three months of the year traveling around BC and Alberta visiting high schools speaking to their students, guidance counsellors and parents either one on one or to large groups at high schools or local community events. She also manages large-scale recruitment events at Capilano University. While Cheryl-Ann has found her open door, her successful journey continues.
“It’s only within the last year I feel like I’ve turned around. The reality is as far as modern day society has developed it is still shocking how underestimated, marginalized and misunderstood women are,” she explains. “I’ve continued my relationship with Dress for Success because even though you start working, as a single parent with a mountain of debt from a ten year custody case and no child support, you continue to appreciate whatever community support is available to you. What I do in return, because I can’t donate money, is I give my time and my skills.
“All women out there have a story and mine is very dramatic and dark but there are ugly stories out there in the world,” Cheryl-Ann continues. “I think people still don’t understand that it doesn’t matter where women live, struggling in a war torn community or living within luxury and surrounded by privilege, there are ugly things continually happening to women that we don’t even know about. I want to be an example of triumph and courage. I want to be a mentor.”
Cheryl-Ann also manages her son’s hockey team and continues to build her professional skills by regularly attending Dress for Success Workshops including most recently, the LinkedIn Workshop and a session with one of the Dress for Success Career Advisors.
“The important thing about Dress for Success is yes, you’re getting women into the workforce but it’s bigger than that. Once you start working in today’s competitive job market, you need to continually re-build your career and upgrade your job skills so you’re able to single-handedly support a growing child. That’s why Dress for Success continues to have a huge impact in my life. It’s so much bigger than just receiving an outfit. And now I’m walking the runway at IMPACT, that’s a challenge I’m up for!”
Help honour Cheryl-Ann and nine other accomplished clients at the upcoming IMPACT 360 event on May 10 at a new venue, the Permanent. The evening will feature spirit tastings, designer cocktails, hor d’oeuvres, music, entertainment and celebration. The goal of the evening is to help Dress for Success open the door for 100 women, at a sponsorship cost of $360 per woman, per year.