The Give Away

by on January 18, 2014

The Bobcaygeon Local

March 6, 2009
By Lisa Dever

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast month local Chiropractor Grant Bjornson received a Community Service Award from the Ontario Chiropractic Association, due in large part to his volunteer activities at “A Special Place” Clothing Give-away. In operation since 1987, A Special Place receives donations of clothing and small household items and offers them to the public for a nominal requested donation. It is the ultimate recycling effort and it helps a good number of people not only in Bobcaygeon, but across the City of Kawartha Lakes and around the world.

If you are interested in supporting this valuable service and want to make a contribution, when you do your Spring cleaning this year, wash, fold and bag all the clothes, linens, footwear and household items you no longer need and take them to the Give-away. The tireless volunteers at the Give-away will carefully sort through the donation and ensure that every item is put to good use. In-season clothing that is without stains, excessive wear or broken zippers will be placed on hangers and immediately put out on the display racks. Out of season clothing that is in good condition will be bagged and stored in the basement until the arrival of the appropriate season.

Articles which are worn or stained are either passed along to another charity for recycling or, if made of cotton, are bagged as “Rags”. Many local tradespeople and mechanics rely upon the Give-away for rags for use in their shops and garages.

Vita Jensen has been volunteering at the Give-away for seventeen years. Vita works at the front desk, collecting donations and handing out shopping bags. In between customers, Vita sorts incoming articles and listens to her cassettes of music from the seventies. Vita is a dedicated and determined worker, who cannot be kept from her volunteer activities, even showing up last autumn only two weeks after a nasty fall left her with broken ribs and bruises. I like Vita because she doesn’t take any nonsense from anyone, but she obviously has a heart of gold.

John Hass has been a volunteer at the Give-away for over 15 years. John is gruff. There’s no two ways about it, but he also is kind and generous. Many times, he has reached across the space between our two work stations, in his hand a book for my son or a doll for my daughter. He collects toys and stuffed animals to hand out to the children who arrive at the Give-away with their parents. John has probably lugged more heavy garbage bags up and down the stairs at the Give-away than any of us could ever imagine. He does it week in and week out, with a dedication and perseverance that is not only impressive but inspiring.

Barb Barrieau, Lorna Fergusson and Norma Foster arrive at the Give-away religiously every Wednesday and Saturday morning. They roll up their sleeves and go straight to work sorting, bagging, hanging and folding clothes. They have all been at it a long time and have, I am certain, handled thousands of items each. The impressive thing is that they never complain about the amount of work, or the weight of the bags or the energy it takes to do all they do. They just work away until closing time and then they go home and come back and do it all over again. I have to say that these ladies have a great sense of humour and that there have been many times that I left the Give-away in a lot better mood than the one in which I arrived.

There are several other volunteers, who come and go. Hank Robertson helps out with building maintenance and empties the donation bin regularly. New volunteer Heather Betz has been sorting through the bins and bins of clothing, removing unwanted items and refolding everything. I’ve been volunteering at the Give-away for only a couple of years. I go whenever I can; not as much as I used to, but enough to lend a little support to the efforts of the committed volunteers who deserve all the help they can get.

There are more ways to help the Special Place than just giving clothes. Volunteers are always in need of large garbage bags. The bags are used to store out of season items, for rags and for the items which are to be passed along to other charities. The bags are also used by shoppers. Customers can fill an entire garbage bag with items for a suggested donation of only four dollars. That’s quite a good deal, no matter what your budget.

I first discovered the Give-away while working on Halloween costumes for my children. There are so many types and styles of clothing at the Give-away that finding a piece to work into a costume is not only possible but likely. I have made scarecrows for our front porch with overalls, plaid shirts and hats from the Give-away. I have made princess and fairy costumes for the Easter parade with reworked dresses (circa 1950) from the Give-away. Often customers are looking for clothing they can alter to fit a grandchild who is attending one of Kawartha Settler’s Village summer programs, or who is participating in a parade or school concert. Two years ago I was even able to supply my son’s entire grade five class with fedoras for their Christmas concert performance. When finished with all those items, they were cleaned and returned to the Give-away for use by someone else.

Shopping at the Give-away can be fun. Most days there is a line up of people waiting for the doors to open. Patience is required if you want to shop at the Give-away. There are thousands of articles of clothing, footwear, knick-knacks, dishes, linens, books and do-dads in stock. If you have the time and inclination, you can often find a little treasure hanging on the racks. Once I found a beautifully soft cashmere sweater that looked like it had never been worn. Another time I found a brand new winter coat that I passed along to someone who really needed it. The best way to shop recycled clothing is to go at it with an open and creative mind and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Space is limited, so furniture and large items are not accepted, but if you have an item in excellent condition, volunteers can place a notice at the Give-away. If there are any takers, volunteers can arrange pick up and delivery of the item.

The Special Place is located in the old Bobcaygeon Post Office building beside Lock 32. The building is owned by the Trent Severn Waterway and is rented yearly. Monies received for recycled items at the Give-Away are used to pay operating expenses like hydro and water. Any surplus funds are donated to local charities like the Food Bank and A Place Called Home. The Special Place Clothing Give-Away is open Wednesday and Saturday mornings, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The donation bin is located to the right side of the front door, at the end of the driveway. Lately, volunteers have been opening bags with clothes that are too worn to be of use to local shoppers, so please consider what it is you are donating. Remember – if you wouldn’t let someone in your family wear the item, it’s probably not in good enough shape for anyone else to wear either!