GENEROSITY – Dagmar Hargreaves

Organization makes a difference in lives of women

Local man donates late wife’s clothing to Dress for Success

  • Mar. 5, 2014 6:07 p.m.

One local man gave a large donation to a small organization which helps women succeed in work and in life.

R. Dean Cowan learned about Dress for Success through a friend after his wife Doreen passed away last June.

“I wanted my wife’s clothes to benefit women who are in need,” said Dean. “My wife grew up in Saskatchewan and they were poor and her first husband was abusive. There were no opportunities available to her at that time, and when I found out about this organization in Red Deer I thought this was the answer.”

Dress for Success Central Alberta is an affiliate of an international organization. It was established in New York in 1997. There are now 140 different affiliates in 12 different countries around the world.

Dagmar Hargreaves, founder of the Central Alberta chapter, started investigating the process to bring Dress for Success to Red Deer in 2006. The organization was brought to the City in 2008, became a registered society in 2010 and is currently working on its charitable status.

Dress for Success is a not-for-profit organization that offers services for women who require clothing to return to work.

Their mission statement says its purpose is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

“We work with disadvantaged or low income women by providing professional attire,” said Hargreaves. “Seventy per cent of low income families are single parent families headed by women. A single mom will always look after her children first.”

Women are referred to Dress for Success Central Alberta by a number of employment programs or organizations that work for the betterment of women.

“We allow the women to pick out an outfit for a job interview and once they have secured a job they can come back and are entitled to receive professional attire for five days worth of work. Of course we normally mix and match, so really five days works into a lot more,” said Hargreaves.

In addition to donations of clothing, Dress for Success also accepts donations of foundation garments, footwear, scarves and jewelry. Donations including perfumes, toiletries and lotions are also accepted. The organization also receives sponsorship from companies such as Lia Sophia, Avon and Bobby Brown which provides them with products to give to women in addition to their clothing.

Meanwhile, Dean encourages others to donate gently used clothing and accessories to Dress for Success.

“It opens the door and gives women opportunities who otherwise may not have them.”

Hargreaves added without donations, Dress for Success would not be able to operate.

“It provides us an opportunity to help the women who are referred to us. Without donations we can’t help them. We are unable to purchase clothing so we rely 100 per cent on Central Alberta donations.”

In addition, Dress for Success is 100% volunteer-run and has a board which is made up of six women.

“We do have expenses. We have rent to pay and we have insurance to pay and we also maintain a cell phone,” said Hargreaves. “We have to raise all of our own money. We receive no funding from anyone at this point.”

Organizers with Dress for Success are gearing up for two fundraisers including their Annual Spring Inventory Reduction Sale on May 3 at 4917 48 St. from 5-8 p.m. Attendees can pay $10 for a bag and then fill it with clothes to take home. As well, a gala will take place on May 25th at the Black Knight Inn.

For more information regarding Dress for Success, call 403-597-8769 or visit

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