Suit drive gives assist to disadvantaged job-seekers in Portland

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PORTLAND — Some of the area’s neediest residents this week are dressing for success.

On Friday, disadvantaged men seeking work will be professionally fitted with new wardrobes at the state Labor Department’s CareerCenter on Lancaster Street. The recipients, who are referred by local rehabilitation providers, will receive free business suits, shirts and ties.

Creative Work Systems, a nonprofit agency serving people with disabilities in southern Maine, is organizing the suit giveaway in conjunction with the state and the Men’s Wearhouse clothing chain. The lightly used clothing was collected from donors over the summer.

The event is part of National Suit Drive, an annual campaign in which Men’s Wearhouse and nonprofit organizations collect and distribute more than 100,000 pieces of business clothing to needy men throughout the country.

CWS has participated in the drive for the past six years. Over that time, more than 600 suits have been provided to local men facing barriers to employment such as health problems or language difficulties, CWS Program Director Kelly Raye said Tuesday. Last year, about 75 men received clothing in Portland.

The haberdashery help builds confidence in the men and prepares them for job interviews.

“When people are looking for work, a well-fitted suit can take them into an interview with the sense they can actually land the job,” Raye said.

The suits often carry high-end labels and some are even designer brands.

“When the men are fitted, they go out looking fantastic,” Raye said.

But the suit drive is about more than new clothes.

“A job is a way out, it helps define who we are,” she said. “We’re saying, ‘Take this (suit), turn it into a job, and become part of the community.'”

On Monday, Jason Taylor, a 39-year-old CWS client from Biddeford, stopped by early to pick up a suit that he plans to wear to an upcoming interview.

“This makes me feel good,” said Taylor, who is looking for part-time custodial work. “I hope it will help me get the job.”

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.

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Lauren Hurley, left, and Kelly Raye, both of Creative Work Systems, help client Jason Taylor pick out business clothing for an upcoming job interview. As part of National Suit Drive, disadvantaged men will be fitted with free suits, shirts and ties this Friday in Portland.