For 10 years, Savvy Seconds has provided free clothing to women and families in a rural community outside of Ottawa to fight invisible poverty and help people cope with everything from unemployment to tornadoes. .
Founded by Vera Jones in 2011, Savvy Seconds has grown from the owner’s garage to a small room connected to the local food bank in Kinburn, Ont.
Ms Jones, who has a degree in women’s studies and law and a background in small business, started Savvy Seconds as a way to give back to her community and help minimize household stress. More importantly, she didn’t want money to be the heart of her new business.
When she started, she focused on women.
“At first it was just women, because that’s something I understand. Every woman I know has been abused, terrified – something in her past – could use a safe place, so I started this free little thing and turned my temporary garage into a shop, ”Ms. Jones said.
Its clientele ranges from women fleeing situations of domestic violence, to those re-entering the labor market, to survivors of natural disasters. Ms. Jones has the help of 15 volunteers, most of them retirees, and runs her business entirely with local donations, all without keeping financial records.
In 2017, she secured the location in Kinburn with the help of Ottawa City Council and was able to expand her business to include men’s and children’s clothing. She believes that by taking the stress of money out of the equation, Savvy Seconds is helping families come together, especially low-income families.
“I’ve seen couples walk in here, almost suffocating from the stress. They have nothing. They don’t have any money, and when they can start picking out clothes for their kids and things, it doesn’t hurt their wallet, they start working together, ”Ms. Jones said. “The dynamics change between them.”
Ms Jones’ parents and grandparents were refugees from the Czech Republic and she remembers learning to work with fabric from her grandmother.
At Savvy Seconds, shelves of women’s clothing fill the small room. Baby and children’s clothing line one wall, and men’s clothing another. The only storage available is a shower space in the next room or in the volunteers’ home. A small bulletin board features brochures on programs for people facing domestic violence or opioid use, or in need of palliative care.
Savvy Seconds is not yet out of stock. Most of the time, donations from all over the city of Ottawa end up in bags on the store’s doorstep or at Ms. Jones’ home. After a tornado ravaged the community in 2018, Savvy Seconds received donations in four shipping containers, with new clothing sent from across the province.
“We’ve been busy seven days a week for months,” Ms. Jones said. “Stores sent boxes of clothing, overstock clothing from the St. Lawrence Seaway, from Milton, Ontario. People wanted to help so much.
Connie Cyr, 65, has benefited from Savvy Seconds both as a client and through her work as a personal support worker in Ottawa. She is able to pick up the clothes that her clients badly need.
“Most of them have low incomes, their husbands are dead or their wives are dead, and they have their own medical issues, and they don’t have the extra money to spend $ 100 or $ 200 on clothes. So if they need pants, sweaters, socks or whatever, I can always ask Vera, ”she said.
As the cost of living continues to rise, Cyr says places like Savvy Seconds are needed more than ever.
Ms Jones has expanded to help organizations such as the Elizabeth Fry and John Howard Societies of Ottawa, Larga Baffin – a boarding house for those coming to Ottawa from Nunavut for medical treatment – and pop-ups with various local First Nations groups. Four years ago, Savvy Seconds was part of a back-to-work event for women with Tungasuvvingat Inuit, an Inuit-specific urban service provider in Ottawa.
For Ms. Jones, fighting invisible poverty – a poverty that is not obvious to the eye – will continue to be an essential aspect of his shop. Especially for women.
“Many women are one man of poverty, and it is in our society. It’s like that, ”she said.
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