Suiting up to help maketh the man

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Opening for men: Veronica Whittaker, centre, and Channel 7 newsreader Peter Mitchell at the opening of the expanded Clothes4U men’s store, which now caters for men and women. Picture: Yanni

WHAT’S been good for women should also be good for men, right? That rationale has led to the creation of a purpose-designed “much-more-than-just-clothing” outlet at Rosebud Central opened last week.

Not-for-profit group Clothes4U, which has been providing quality clothing, accessories and toiletries to disadvantaged women on the Mornington Peninsula for five years, will now do the same for men in similar circumstances. 

The service is free and clients get to keep all the items they are given.

“Over that time we have been providing women and girls with clothing for everything from everyday wear, to outfits for job interviews, court appearances, special occasions and more,” Clothes4U committee member Rachel Jacgung said.

“About 50 women use the service each month, most referred by agencies on the peninsula,” she said.

“The clients come from diverse backgrounds: some are homeless, others are victims of domestic violence, refugees, single mothers, unemployed, on parole or recovering drug addicts.

“Whether they’re in crisis, or just needing some extra support during a rough patch in their life, we welcome them to our boutique.”

Ms Jacgung said over the years the group had received many requests to provide the same service for men. “It has always been our dream to provide this service but, until now, it has not been possible financially or logistically,” she said.

A few months ago Mornington Peninsula Shire Council came to the rescue by leasing the group suitable premises at a peppercorn rental and the pilot program for boys and men was born: the first of its kind on the peninsula. 

“The response has been overwhelming, and we are currently seeing around five clients a week,” Ms Jacgung said. “As with our female clients, each meets with a volunteer who helps them pick out quality clothing, shoes, underwear and toiletries to suit their body type, style and needs.

“We have discovered that men who come to us for clothes and toiletries actually come for more than that,” Clothes4U president Veronica Whittaker said. “They like to talk to us about all sorts of things.

“We get the sense that most are lonely. Given their circumstances, they may not talk to people for days on end and so the opportunity to talk and joke with our volunteers is a positive experience.”

Phase two of the men’s program will be to invite clients to stay for coffee and a snack to talk with other men – a time Ms Whittaker says is “when the real work begins and friendships may be established”.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 12 March 2019

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