Dress for Success provides clothes and confidence for Ottawa women seeking employment

8th annual Stepping Out fundraiser features cultural theme, return of popular shoe competition

Dress for Success Ottawa is all about helping women put their best foot forward as they step back into the workforce.

But, on Friday, it was the stylish supporters of the non-profit organization who were flashing their feet — in strappy sandals, pretty pumps and perfectly pointed stilettos — in the popular shoe competition held during the Stepping Out event.

The 8th annual fundraiser was back at Lago Bar and Grill, located at Dows Lake Pavilion.

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Local lifestyle blogger Dominique Baker hosted the shoe showdown, which featured a parade of fabulous footwear. Contestants Kelly MounceStephanie Lore and Miriam van Nie won, in their respective categories.

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Come live auction time, Dress for Success co-founder and board member Joelle Hall gave a good, loud finger whistle to quiet down the chatty crowd.

Her assertiveness did the trick and left ‘Stuntman’ Stu Schwartz noticeably impressed. The morning show co-host with Majic 100.3 sold off a Bloomex floral arrangement party, a VIA Rail getaway to Old Montreal and a trip to St. Lucia to top bidders that night.

Dress for Success

Attendees included Microsoft Canada’s Marlene Floyd, another co-founder of Dress for Success Ottawa and current board member, as well as one of this year’s Forty Under 40 award winners for young business leaders. Her husband, Quebec Transport Minister André Fortin, was among the minority of guys who attended.

Dress for Success

NAV Canada senior legal counsel Amanda Sarginson, board chair for Dress for Success, was there. So was board member Kate Headley, who co-chaired the event with Nicole Darechuk.

Proving the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree were sisters Danya, Ariel and Alexandra Vered, all of whom volunteered that night. Their late father, businessman Arnie Vered, was a tireless community builder.

RBC regional president Tina Sarellas was seen hanging out with her gang from work, including banking advisor Jing Xu, who is a former client of Dress for Success.

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Earlier in the evening, Karen Jacobs told guests at a VIP reception how she benefited from Dress for Success after going back to school — in her late 50s — to become a certified paralegal through Algonquin Careers Academy. 

The organization provided her with appropriate clothes for job interviews. It also gave her access to a certified career coach and workshops on professional etiquette and budgeting as well as tips on hair and make-up for the workplace. The best part of all, she told the room, was the boost to her confidence.

She arrived to Dress for Success as an unemployed, mature women.

“In no small part to them, I’m working at a prestigious law firm in downtown Ottawa, and I love my job,” said the law clerk with Brazeau Seller.

Dress for Success

Dress for Success helps around 800 women each year.

“They don’t just slap a suit on you and set you up with a mock interview and call it a day. Dress for Success makes an investment in these ladies,” said Jacobs. 

Older women should not be ashamed about accepting charity, she also said, while explaining that it’s part of the cycle of giving and receiving.

“There are times in our lives when we need to ask for help and be ready to receive it. There are times when we reach out and help somebody else.”

This year’s theme of A Trip Around the World included live cultural performances throughout the evening, as well as DJ music, silent auction items and prizes, including a custom diamond ring from Joy Creations.

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— caroline@obj.ca

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