The Donor Celebration Open House was created for Dress for Success Donors – corporate, monthly, or one-time – to thank them for their support, and to provide an opportunity for them to see our boutique in person, as some of our online donors have not yet had a chance to tour our newly renovated boutique.

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In the early afternoon, after some ice bag runs with Emily, tidying up of the boutique (luckily I had my runners with me), and prepping of snacks, people started rolling into the boutique.

Emily, Marketing Intern and SFU graduate!

Emily, Marketing Intern and SFU graduate!

I gave people tours of the boutique, and met the TELUS team (from the TELUS Amazing Race event that fundraised for DFS), the women who made the Spark it Forward Race happen, the Sidebuy girls, our “landlords” from the RBC, and many other supporters and donors. It was a joyful afternoon, with light pop tunes playing, the Petit Puf serving cotton candy from mango to chai flavours, water and bubbly, savoury meats, cheese, and crackers, and other sweet treats.

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Me, Christina, and Emily enjoying Petit Puf

Me, Christina, and Emily enjoying Petit Puf

Enjoying Petit Puf!

Enjoying Petit Puf!

DFS Vancouver team and me :) L to R: Christina, Hannah, Lucia, Jen, Jennifer

DFS Vancouver team and me :) L to R: Christina, Hannah, Lucia, Jen, Jennifer

Group photo – seeing this photo, I realize how close knit the team is at DFS Vancouver, and how this small group has spearheaded such huge impact on local women. And also the distinctly different personalities of each staff and how every one balances out each other and makes the team stronger. For example, Lucia has the patience that is perfect for managing PWG and interacting with its members, who look to her almost as a supportive, motherly figure, as Jennifer was talking about today.  In contrast, Jennifer is more “go-go-go” – which allows her to efficiently oversee the organization.

Until tomorrow!

Shirley L

Miss Teen Vancouver 2015

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Today was packed with a lot of stuff that I can’t wait to share – I’ll just get into it!

After some barre and blogging about Canada’s greatness (find my post below!) this morning, I came into the office and picked up from yesterday on the Instagram posting prep. We really want to get the word out about our upcoming one-day Shop for a Cause clothing and accessories sale. I cannot believe the 25th next week Wednesday! Even when you try to capture time by blogging, time slips away just as fast.

I started today with a few boutique things and making a welcome sign for our Donor Celebration Party greeting table – Indesign time is happy time.

Made a sign for the door @ Donor Celebration

Made a sign for the door @ Donor Celebration

For lunch today, Jennifer took me to this Indian food place located in an inconspicuous mall on Hornby. Inside, it was bustling with people and filled with the smell of spices – pungent, in a mouthwatering way. I’ve only been pescatarian since a year ago, so I’ve had school-lunch-program butter chicken before, but that’s about my entire previous experience with Indian cuisine.

After Jennifer treated me to a delicious veggie plate and nan bread, we chatted about family, school, uni plans, and DFS.

Jennifer was a Dress for Success volunteer before she became involved with DFS Vancouver full time. As executive director, she came at a time when more organization was needed within the organization – staff’s jobs overlapped; things were not kept tabs on – and began restructuring. She stressed her goal of leaving a unique, lasting impact on this organization with her team during her term here – before passing your role on to the next leader, what aspects have you improved, have you left your irreplaceable print on? In order to achieve this vision, goal-setting is vital. Jennifer outlines general goals for the staff so that everyone is on the same page and working in the same direction. Each staff then creates SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound goals that allow everyone to contribute to the general goal. When goals are reached, and when an organization is growing so fast, it is time for expansion of the team. Early this year, Jen, previously a DFS volunteer, joined the team full time as Boutique Manager. This July, Hannah became our part-time Dressing Coordinator. Next, Jennifer is looking to streamline fundraising efforts – fundraising is essential to running the organization, and it is important to be tracking fundraising outcomes as well.

Jennifer used to be in the hotel management industry, and volunteered at Dress for Success at the same time – when asked about the difference she felt between working in the corporate world vs. directing a non-profit, she said that many aspects of running the two are the same, but she loves her job at DFS for the meaningful, long-term impact she is able to make on women. This passion reminds me of an interview on Astrid Levelt, founder of Dress for Success Vancouver, that I was reading on our DFS Vancouver blog. The woman started with the concept and opened DFS Vancouver’s doors in 7 weeks. Her dad built the change rooms; her mom painted the walls with her. She “begged, borrowed, and stole clothing racks”. The organization started in “the bedrooms of four nuns” (see the blog for details – “A Blast from the Past”: http://ow.ly/Qa45n ). It’s unimaginable the incredible amount of passion she must have had to drive the organization through – and now, it is of the most developed Dress for Success affiliates in the world.

The whole meal and chat was such a treat!! Next up: Donor Celebration Party!

Shirley L

Miss Teen Vancouver 2015

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Unlike many of my pageant sisters, I wasn’t always “Canadian”. To my eight-year-old self who just immigrated to Vancouver with her family, Canada was a new adventure. But to my present sixteen-year-old self, who plans to venture into new territory for university and beyond, Canada will always feel like home.

Holding our flag in front of our car, sponsored by Richmond Auto Mall, Open Road Lexus

That’s a transition, for sure. Well, Canada has a way of doing it to you.

On my first day of school in Canada, I was immediately welcomed into that grade 4 classroom. This formulated my first impression of Canadians – that we are always nice and unbelievably kind – which should be a fact, in my opinion. The teacher held my hand as she warmly introduced me to the class; the children enthusiastically sang a chorus of “Hii Shirleyyy” as they looked up from their books, some still sitting on the carpet on the window side of the room, while others rushed up to me and introduced themselves. As you can imagine, I immediately started liking Canada – and especially, Vancouver.

Track and field team in grade 4: excuse my expression haha (I'm smiling on the inside)

Track and field team in grade 4: excuse my expression haha (I’m smiling on the inside)

Friday nights of grade 4 and 5 were dedicated to Youth Nights at my local chapel: we played various games, had rounds of Secret Santa during the Christmas holidays, and enjoyed pool with pizza. I learned what “faith” is – can you imagine the patience it took those Youth Night leaders to explain “faith” to me, when I barely knew English and hardly had any previous exposure to religion? But Abigail and Amy did it over time, with, again, such care and kindness.

At the same chapel, I was also in their children's choir. This was grade 5, during our Kiwanis or Whistler trip. Would have never had this experience if I didn't live in Canada!

At the same chapel, I was also in their children’s choir. This was grade 5, during our Kiwanis or Whistler trip. Would have never had this experience if I didn’t live in Canada!

But this inclusiveness of immigrants and acceptance of diversity that famously characterize Canadians today was not always the case. When Canada began receiving immigrants, especially during the period before and during the Great War and the World War 2, Canada was the complete opposite of the multiculturalist nation it is today. The Canadian government exercised institutionalized racism, marginalized the cultural and land needs of the Aboriginal peoples, brought about assimilation by forcing young Aboriginal girls into residential schools, closed its doors to the SS St Louis Jewish refugees, put head taxes on the Chinese, and wrongly accused and interned Japanese-Canadians.

Assessing through a diversity lens, it is obvious that Canada was not always the “greatest”. And probably, many Canadians today are shocked by, or feel uncomfortable with, the fact that we were such a racist nation.

But, I think what makes Canada great – and what makes me proud to be Canadian today – is the fact that we are a nation that is willing to learn, adapt, and advance – and does. As I grew up since first arriving here in grade 4, I found Canada’s evolving identity throughout its history so fascinating to learn. Especially in the post-WW2 era, we grew into an inclusive nation with a relaxed, colour-blind immigration policy. On the topic of inclusiveness and equality, proposals were made to the Criminal Code to relax laws against homosexuality (“there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation”); Canada became a bilingual country to recognize our French-Canadians. Women started to receive equal opportunity for employment, “equal pay for work of equal value” through the Human Rights Act of 1978, and maternity leave, contraception, and abortion rights. Most significantly of all, Trudeau’s government established the Constitutional Act of 1982, of which the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was a defining element. Many rights and freedoms we take for granted, from the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, to the right to life, liberty, and security, and the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisioned, would not be guaranteed and embedded in the Constitution for Canadians to enjoy if it weren’t for this document.

I took this on a small cruise from Granville Island last month. Vancouver is just beautiful.

I took this on a small cruise from Granville Island last month. Vancouver is just beautiful.

Today, the freedom to retain and celebrate our unique identities and backgrounds without being persecuted for them seems inherent in Canadian culture. Of course, there are many aspects of life that families are in contact with everyday that make us proud and appreciative of what our country offers. For example, our policies on cradle-to-grave social security, good education from our public school system, universal and accessible health care, and old age pension plans. On a community level, there are many non-profit organizations and free programs in community centres and neighbourhood houses here in Canada to support newcomers, women, seniors, new mothers, unemployed individuals, children, and more. Our public libraries are always open to those thirsty for knowledge, and our beautiful parks and recreations are always available to those looking to spend some time with nature. For weekend leisure, in Vancouver especially, we can enjoy spending time at the beach, the forests, the mountains, and in downtown.

Vancouver Canada = beaches, forests, and everything one could ask for. On the beach - photo taken by Emily!

Vancouver Canada = beaches, forests, and everything one could ask for. On the beach – photo taken by Emily!

On the beach - photo taken by Emily!

On the beach – photo taken by Emily!

Volunteering during a festival at my local community centre - there are so many amazing programs to support everyone in the community here!

Volunteering during a festival at my local community centre in grade 6 I think  – there are so many amazing programs to support everyone in the community here!

In three words, Canada is great.

Happy Wednesday everyone, and cheers to the beginning of a new day in this great nation!

Shirley L

Miss Teen Vancouver 2015

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So I realized I haven’t posted this blog yet!!

Holding our flag in front of our car, sponsored by Richmond Auto Mall, Open Road Lexus

 

After decorating our sponsored Richmond Auto Mall Open Road Lexus car with flowers and the Canadian flag, posing for at least a hundred photos with photographers and people who nervously walk up to the car to ask for a photo (we don’t bite ahah!), and being randomly interviewed by Ukrainian TV, the Canada Day parade was underway.

Miss Teen Okanagan, BC, Richmond, and me from left to right!

We had some Uptown Funk blasting as we slowly drove after the group before us, ready to wave. We really had no idea what we were doing, but the whole thing was Quite hilarious and we just had fun with it. We screamed Happy Canada Day way too many times, trying to lift everyone’s spirits, but the music was so loud that no one could hear us anyway. At least, hopefully – since our sore throats made our voices sound like hoarse, cracked man-noises.

Ah, just hilarious.

I love it when people wave back – it’s so funny when you think about it: we were driving less than a road’s width from the people on either side, but they get so excited when they see you waving at them. The really enthusiastic wavers – their eyes grow wide and they ecstatically poke at their friends and point to us once we establish eye contact, and their friends start aggressively waving too, as if we were some dormant statues they were trying to wake up with their wave. They follow your car like sunflowers orienting themselves to the sun.

Our other sponsored car! Many people came up to take photos with us at this point. 

What was even MORE hilarious was the video Norm took of us waving. Oh, my dear. I had this weird wave going on – this slanted-hand, wrist-rotation motion. Find it on Youtube for a good laugh!

So that was fun, and an experience-of-a-lifetime.

Happy late Canada Day!

Shirley L

Miss Teen Vancouver 2015

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Today is team-building, get-to-know-one-another’s-working-style-better workshop day for the DFS Vancouver staff. These ladies from a workplace relations group came in and led everyone through activities, I believe.

For me, today was a chance to finally get to know and work with Emily, our Marketing intern! I followed up on our #dressoakridge campaign with Oakridge Centre on social media platforms and started writing some things for the DFS blog, while Emily wrote up drafts of invitation letters. Jennifer had lunch catered from the Lazy Gourmet for the workshop which we had and it was really delicious. Also met two other volunteers today, Marilyn and Sheila, who were busy calling to confirm appointments and printing new name tags. This all went by so fast.

In the process of  blogging!

In the process of blogging!

The Lazy Gourmet lunch - yum!

The Lazy Gourmet lunch – yum!

Sheila was the last to leave, and by around 3, it was just me in the office – I blogged about the Pyrrha staff who came in to organize items for the sale for the DFS blog, and answered the occasional phone call. The staff were still in the workshop, and laughters bursted here and there.

So I get a call from this lady – a client of ours who was outfitted for employment. I go and greet her at the door – I recognize her from my second day here! I start explaining that the office is closed today, but she says she’s just here to return some pants and shoes she received from here that unfortunately did not end up fitting. I felt kind of bad that she basically couldn’t wear one of the two outfits we could provide, and explained that I’d have to inquire about policies on exchanges later and get back to her – but she was not agitated or anything at all. She was so full of gratitude for the service DFS has provided her; she says she hopes to donate them back so that another client who is looking for shoes in this size could get them. She also hands me a dainty brooch carefully wrapped in a napkin and says she wants to donate this to DFS too since she doesn’t wear it anymore, and another woman could.

That really made my day. It was really sweet of her to return the items – and quite amazing that she’s still a client of DFS, and she’s paying it forward already! I love how DFS fosters this cycle. She left with a big smile and told me how much she appreciated the services again.

So I left the office in an exuberant mood, partly because of this and partly because I was so stoked to pig out on some gourmet Italian pizzas – and that’s what we did, family style. Had such a great night in Gastown afterwards and will miss my friend so much after she leaves for Cali again!!

<3

<3

Hope everyone had a good Fri-yay!

Shirley L

Miss Teen Vancouver

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I name this blog post “bananas in pyjamas” in honour of a hilarious conversation today with Hannah, the Dressing Services Coordinator, about some kids’ show with that name. I’ve never heard of the show myself, but somehow, I kept on getting this image of Curious George when she was talking about it – and imagine my disappointment when Google images reveals that these bananas (which look much more like corn on the cob) hang out with bears and pigs instead…

In the morning, on the way to downtown..

In the morning, on the way to downtown..

Let’s start from the top. I went to Barre Fitness in Yaletown this morning and it was amazing! I can’t believe how many people attend this 6:30am class – the studio was completely packed! What I really like about this studio is that they put huge emphasis on the stretching during and after the workout. Without that release, my muscles tend to feel stuffed and even tighter in the morning.

Today, I looked into some corporations that might have an interest in supporting our organization through their charity programs. Next, I went into the back room for some tasks and started steaming some new donations that we can put out onto the floor directly, since we haven’t put out new summer work clothes for a long time.

While I stemmed, I chatted with Katherine, who selected the music of the day – classical – and was working on the sorting table. Katherine has been volunteering here for 5 years, I believe, and she told me about her adventures in Switzerland, while staying at a DFS volunteer’s home (who volunteers overseas, online). When a full-length, pleated navy skirt popped up with the brand name “Aleane”, she told me about how it was a huge deal to wear clothes manufactured by Aleane “back then”; Aleane was made in Vancouver and it closed in the 70s. The quality of the piece was amazing, but the exactly style could be easily found at Topshop today.

When I got back from lunch, I continued to work away at steaming – there were a couple dozen of the same loose, silky button-ups that some store probably donated. The Banana Republic girls came in to volunteer again (bananas!)! They are from the Park Royal store, and I really enjoyed talking with one of the girls last week and was happy to see a familiar face coming in to volunteer again, as I’m meeting new volunteers everyday! The girls sorted clothing and shoes, etc.

Hannah shows the Banana Republic girls how to sort

A picture with ladies from Bank of Montreal who brought a load of clothing donations – excuse my close eyes, this was the only photo haha!

I am so stoked for tomorrow night – the five of us are going to this elaborate Italian restaurant and Gastown after, one is leaving for a Toronto visit soon, and another is going back to California after her short visit here.

Happy Thursday!

Shirley L

Miss Teen Vancouver 2015

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