Suits for successful starts

By Kaley Fowler

Thanks to a new initiative, adhering to the maxim “dress for success” will soon become much easier for many Chicago men.

The Cara Program, 237 S. Desplaines St., is an organization that provides job training and placement for individuals who have struggled with homelessness. They have teamed up with custom suit company Sebastien Grey Clothiers, 70 W. Madison St., to develop the “PerSuit” program in an effort to provide each of its male participants with a new, interview-ready suit.

Sebastien Grey joined The Cara Program by donating 50 suits at a Jan. 24 ceremony to launch the initiative. According to Maggie Hoomanawanui, Grey’s spokeswoman, the clothier wanted to incorporate a permanent community outreach program into its business model. For every full-priced suit sold, the company will donate one suit to The Cara Program.

“As long as we’re selling suits, we will be donating as well,” Hoomanawanui said. “While we understand that it’s not a new idea, we think it’s an amazing one, so we’re going to progress with it.”

The effort has been well received by members of The Cara Program, according to spokeswoman Sarah Mansberger.

“To be able to offer a brand new garment with a stamp of a custom clothier like Sebastien Grey is a huge boost for our students,” Mansberger said.

Founded in 1991 by philanthropist Tom Owens, The Cara Program aims to “prepare and inspire motivated individuals to break the cycle of homelessness, transform their lives, strengthen communities and forge path to real and lasting success,” according to its mission statement.

The program prepares its students—men and women in their 40s—for the job market through training programs, educational services and providing work-ready clothes.

“We have a number of supporters who donate clothing to us on a regular basis, so we’ve always been fortunate to have really great donated items,” Mansberger said.

Mansberger added that the new suits make the men look feel “fabulous.”

“During some of the job searches you can have some down moments,” said Jesse Dimukes, a Cara student since September 2011. “Seeing myself in that business suit was so uplifting, and it boosted my confidence.”

According to Mansberger, The Cara Program is dedicated to creating a total life transformation, and its services are ultimately about more than finding “just a job.”

“We work with our students to harness their motivation, [which] is a huge concept for us,” she said. “We are focused on employment, but we know that to become employed, there is a lot of work to be done to make sure that you are in that right framework and that right state of mind to move forward with that true life change.”

For more information about The Cara Program, visit