Shireen Hassen - HR manager Radisson

Formal wear is essential to job interviews and occasions calling for smart attire, but the sad reality is that people from disadvantaged communities simply cannot afford it.

While jackets and ties may not seem important within the broader context of putting food on the table, these items bring a sense of dignity to those less fortunate.

It is this belief that led a team from the Radisson Blu Hotel in Gqeberha to work with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Port Elizabeth to improve the lives of young people in some of the Eastern Cape’s poorest areas.

Executive housekeeper Lloyd Croft spearheaded an initiative where the hotel donated pre-loved uniforms and linen to the church.

The diocese then passes these on to various beneficiaries such as the Missionvale Care Centre. Here, the garments serve as formal clothing for occasions such as matric farewells, job interviews, weddings and funerals.

Some of these outfits also find their way to St Augustine’s Cathedral in Nelson Mandela Bay and the Akhanani Good Shepherd Mission in East London’s Duncan Village.

Radisson general manager Elmarie Fritz explained that uniform branding had changed over the years, leaving many good-as-new pieces “sitting in a storeroom”.

“The uniforms no longer hold any value for us so in this way we can help the needy,” she said.

Shireen Hassen - HR manager Radisson

Radisson Blu human resources manager Shireen Hassen inspects some of the uniforms that are bringing dignity to poorer people in the Eastern Cape. Photo: Full Stop Communications

Diocesan secretary Rebecca Huntly said the church supported parish soup kitchens, feeding programmes and rural schools through generous donations by private individuals and businesses.

“We donate the used uniforms mostly to the Missionvale Care Centre. Missionvale is crippled by poverty, disease, drought and hunger,” she said.

Huntly said the centre was in a transitional phase, moving away from a traditional welfare approach and embracing a developmental and transformative method in its activities.

“There is a gold mine of potential within this community.”

The uniforms were altered and brought back to life by volunteers at the facility’s clothing warehouse, she said, adding that the diocese was grateful to Croft and the Radisson for their efforts.

Care centre marketing manager Linda Oudheusden explained that there was a separate clothing rack for special occasions.

“We have a job readiness programme for unemployed youth and often they don’t have proper attire to wear,” she said.

“It is sad to see how this eats away at their self-esteem and confidence. These donations make all the difference.”

Anyone can apply for items using Missionvale Care Centre Bucks. These tokens are earned by volunteering at the centre, getting involved in recycling or attending support groups and educational workshops.

“This way people are able to do something in return for what they receive and not rely on handouts,” Oudheusden said.

Croft downplayed his charity work, saying it had simply been a case of him reaching out to people he knew and asking if they needed anything.

The centre was founded by the late humanitarian, Sister Ethel Normoyle, in 1988. She gained world renown for her work in Missionvale and the Bay, where she spent more than 50 years of her life.

Her tireless efforts to help disadvantaged communities and selfless spirit gave hope to the poorest of the poor. Today, her legacy lives on through the continued work of the centre.