Dress for Success official says grant funding comes at perfect time

By: Shawn Gibson
Originally published in The Barrie Today

Sandy Falco is wearing glasses and a dark blue blazer under a light navy blue shirt. She is surrounded by formal office attire, shoes and purses.

A local charity organization that helps women get ready for their first day on the job is putting a new government grant to good use.

In May 2021, Dress for Success Orillia and Barrie was approved for a $127,000 Resilient Communities Fund grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF). 

The organization has used the grant money to rebuild and recover from impacts of COVID-19 by hiring a strategic plan consultant and a part-time marketing and communications co-ordinator, purchasing radio and online ads and a fundraising platform, and covering their boutique’s rent and utilities costs. 

The strategic plan consultant helped Dress for Success Orillia and Barrie develop a new three-year strategic plan for their organization.

Dress for Success Orillia and Barrie board chair Sandy Falcon told BarrieToday the funding comes at the perfect time as the need for the service is greater than ever. 

“We are helping anywhere between 150 to 200 women a year, but since January 2022 we have helped about 67 women. That's a high number at this point of the year and we will well exceed our annual average,” Falcon said Thursday. “COVID caused a lot of job loss and there are many people back trying to find work.”

During COVID restrictions, the organization went online like so many others. 

“We had to completely change how we operated during COVID and not have in-person meetings. We had what we called a virtual pick-and-pack, where we would pick the clothes out for the women over the internet and then we’d drop it off where they needed," Falcon said. 

The mission at Dress for Success is to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help them thrive in work and in life. 

Dress for Success provides assistance to women as they transition from employment or re-employment. Programs focus on providing a continuum of support and opportunities for women to compete and advance in the ever-changing workplace.

Three main programs provided are the Suiting Program (Professional Clothing Assistance Program), the Professional Women’s Group, and the Breakfast Club. 

The organization also works with clients who are actively seeking employment, have scheduled job interviews, or have recently acquired a job or placement/co-op.

“The government funding is over three years and will help us with staffing, our strategic planning and all our programs, like the breakfast club,” Falcon said.

The organization is located in the Bayfield Mall and has all kinds of business clothes, purses, jewelry, scrubs and is looking particularly for trades uniforms.

“We are getting a lot of women who have gone the way of the trade industry, so getting more of those in soon will be important,” Falcon said.

For more information on Dress for Success and how to donate, head to their website by clicking here


Sandy Falcon graduated from Lakehead University in May of 2022 with a Master of Arts in Social Justice Studies.