What Dee Campbell thought would be a good resource for young families has turned into a bustling store which gives free clothing to those in need.
Campbell and members of New Life Assembly opened the store in the church’s Community Life Centre in September. The concept is simple; people donate gently used children’s clothing which is then given to people who come to the shop on Mondays and Wednesday.
Campbell says in these tough economic times, everyone can use a little hand up.
“When people get their utility bills and see it they say ‘Oh my goodness! How am I going to get a winter coat for the people in our family who need them.”
Campbell says it has been gratifying to see the young families who are being helped. She tells of a young mother who recently came in to get bedding and clothing for her children who are three months and 15 months old. “She got crib sheets and blankets…she came in a little hatchback and she could not see out of the back of the hatch when she left.
“She needed that kind of support and quick support and we were happy to give it.”
The whole congregation has caught the spirit of giving. Recently, the senior pastor talked about the worst Christmas gift – socks and underwear – and challenged the people in the pews to donate them to the Life Centre. They collected 706 pairs of socks and 520 pairs of underwear.
And Campbell says she regularly finds new clothing with tags still on it in the donation bin just outside the door of the store.
As volunteers put away donated clothing items in the back of the store, Campbell points out a row of new winter boots purchased with a donation. Recently, the Petrolia Community Foundation gave the group $500 which they will be buy winter coats for young children.
Picking out something new when they are expecting something second hand brings a lot of joy, she says. “The look on the mom’s face when she sees something new is amazing; ‘This still has the tags on it – it is still brand new!”
The Community Life Centre helps about 30 families a week who have mostly heard of the store by word of mouth, through Facebook or from the Petrolia Food Bank. And the group has also helped people outside the town limits.
Campbell says a Sarnia teacher reached out for help for a student and when the Kenwick Building caught fire last month, the group was able to provide clothing for three boys and two girls.
Campbell and Shelly Aubie say it has been a great experience. “Helping other people really makes you feel good,” says Aubie.
“We get calls from people and they start to tell us their stories,” says Campbell. “I tell them they don’t have to tell us. ‘It’s okay if you’re having a rough time right now; we’re here to help.’”