Free Suits for Inner-City Graduates

Published May 05, 2016 14:42


For Kashtin Mekish and other young men in this year’s graduating class at Children of the Earth High School, the suit doesn’t make the grad, the grad makes the suit.

But getting a free suit is going to make their graduation extra special.

As many as 17 lucky young men who are graduating will be decked out with new suits or blazers and slacks, dress shirt, ties and accessories thanks to local menswear company EPH Apparel and a retired businessman who took to heart a principal’s plea.

It’s kind of the male version of the seven-year-old Gowns for Grads program in which young women who can’t afford a fancy dress can pick one that has been donated.

The only thing the grads will have to provide are socks, shoes, underwear — and themselves.

Mekish, 18, in Grade 12 at the inner-city school, said he was thrilled to hear just last week he will have a new suit to wear at next month’s graduation ceremonies.

"My family was speechless when I told them," Mekish said Wednesday.

"I said you don’t have to buy me a suit now. I am really excited to get a suit for free."

When EPH representative Sandeep Singh slipped an example jacket over Mekish’s shoulders, he said, "This feels very comfortable — and I really like the fabric."

Another graduate, 18-year-old Gordon Parisien, said he lives on his own at Pan Am Place and is especially thankful for the clothing donation.

"Without this, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get a suit on my own," Parisien said. "I’ve never had a suit before."

Brendan Govereau, 19, said he’s excited about it now, but he wasn’t sure at first.

"I was told, but I didn’t believe it when I was told," he said.

"But after hearing it from others at the school, I thought it must be true. This is great."

Principal Jackie Connell calls the donation by EPH "awesome," and she is looking forward to later this month when her students go to the menswear store for their fittings and tailoring.

"For all of them this will make a world of difference," Connell said.

"They already feel special with graduating, but this will make them feel even more special."

Connell said it all started when she, knowing her inner-city students would find it impossible to afford a suit for their graduation, asked her fellow board members at the Boys and Girls Club Winnipeg if they had used suits they could donate.

She said one of the board members, Ralph Jackson, took her request to heart, and when he got home, he sent out an email to people he knew from his former business career as well as relatives and friends.

Jackson said the very next day he was calling the principal to pass on the offer from EPH’s Alex Ethans to outfit the entire graduating class of young men for free.

"I was just blown away," Jackson said. "The principal said ‘You’ve given me goosebumps.’

"But I didn’t do it. All I did was send out a few emails. After that, it has taken on a life of its own."

Ethans said his company is pleased to be able to donate the barely used menswear.

"We do custom-made clothing, so this is a great opportunity to get young men who wouldn’t be able to acquire it to acquire it," he said.

"These suits were custom-made for past fashion shows, so they were gently worn one time. We will bring the students in for a fitting for alterations, and five days later they’ll have the suit."

Lindsey Trudeau, an aboriginal graduation coach with the Winnipeg School Division, said the men will not only be able to wear the suits for their graduation, but also future job interviews.

"This means the world for all of them," Trudeau said. "When we told them, the looks on their faces was priceless. Burly young men almost had tears in their eyes.

"This is amazing."

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