YSM makes donation bags available to the tenants of the buildings above the PATH to make it easier for them to donate. Photos courtesy of the Yonge Street Mission

Firsthand view of clothing drive benefits

  • January 18, 2014

TORONTO - Beneath the cold winter streets of downtown Toronto, Alana Walker Carpenter has volunteered with the Yonge Street Mission’s Annual Longest Underground Clothing Drive since it began 16 years ago.

It was during the campaign, about five years ago, while managing her station in the city’s PATH, she saw firsthand the good that comes from the annual clothing drive. The PATH is a network of tiled tunnels lined with upscale shops and restaurants below the towers of Toronto’s financial district in the city core. Carpenter mans the drive’s booth located under First Canadian Place.

One day, during collection and against protocol, an unforeseen issue arose. A man who was trying to get his life back together, she recalls, had stopped by the drive on his way to a job interview. He wasn’t wearing the right business attire.

Carpenter, a full-time chaplain on Bay Street for Intriciti, an organization that spreads the Gospel of Jesus Christ to business leaders, knew volunteers aren’t supposed to give away clothes on the spot. But “something in my spirit prompted me and I sent him on his way.”

“We were able to find something for this gentleman to wear to be interviewed, and he later came back that week and told us he got the job. That story doesn’t happen often,” she said.

Carpenter sees the generosity of many from her booth.

“It’s the highest volume site,” she said.

Her booth is but one of 18 locations along the PATH where clothes can be dropped off from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. from Jan. 20 to 24. Donors will receive a ballot for a draw with coupons for participating retailers as the prize. In 2013, 6,000 bags of clothing were donated.

Carpenter says that even retail stores will donate bags of items still with the tags on. All clothing donations are professionally washed and pressed and sent to the mission’s Double Take store.

The Double Take store provides members of Toronto’s Regent Park community, a low-income downtown neighbourhood, with employment and an affordable place to shop for clothes. The store gives out about $56,000 in gift cards “so that our community members who shop there can have a dignified shopping experience,” said Rebecca Chan, manager of special events at the Yonge Street Mission.

“We really want our community members to go and shop, find something that fits their taste, their needs and to be able to find something that’s a good fit for them.”

She adds that there has been a “fantastic turnout from the business crowd to donate towards the cause of employment.” Carpenter would agree.

“People love the opportunity to give away their things,” she said. “I give business leaders my contacts within the towers to come and volunteer. What I want for them to do is be able to experience philanthropy first hand beyond donating clothes.”

On philanthropy, she says “you can be transformed... It can spur you on to do so much more.”

For more information on the clothing drive, visit www.clothingdrive.ysm.ca.

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