The Neighborhood Sharing Closet, located on Lakeview 0/Parkside 0 adult mental health at Providence Care Hospital, offers personalized, one-on-one shopping experiences and social interactions to patients and clients in need. Recreation Therapist Blair Chard set the wheels in motion to open the Neighborhood Sharing Closet during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic – where all items are graciously donated and provided at no cost.
When Blair began his role at Providence Care, patients and clients had access to clothing when they were in need, but no store existed and items were requested on a case-by-case basis.
“If someone needed something, they were given it. Getting to choose and making those individualized choices was lost. I knew we had lots of clothes that were available for our clients, so I said why don’t we bring them all to a room and let people come in and make their own selections? And it’s really grown from there,” explains Blair.
Two years later, the Neighbourhood Sharing Closet has expanded to all Providence Care patients and clients for in-person shopping experiences. If people can’t physically get to the store from other Providence Care locations, items are transported as required. This store provides an opportunity that many people take for granted – having a place to shop.
“To me, this is about people having dignity. To have the ability to go shopping is just so much better than bringing someone an item that they need to wear,” says Blair.
The store is run by volunteer Kathryn Watters and is open weekly on Thursdays. From shoes, to coats, hoodies, pants, purses, accessories, or personal hygiene items – you name it, the store has it and in a variety of sizes.
Kathryn has been a volunteer since November 2021, and as someone who sometimes buys secondhand clothing herself due to the many benefits, she was all in when Blair approached her with his idea.
“It’s a way to give back,” Kathryn explains. “I have lived experience in my past and have seen how mental health can affect others. It is important to normalize any encounter and treat others how we want to be treated. We must always have hope for healing and recovery.”
And that’s exactly what Kathryn does each week – sharing a hello and a smile with no judgement to anyone who enters the store. She describes her experience in the store as uplifting – asking people what they need or want and finding the perfect items together.
“When people leave smiling and sometimes laughing, that is the best,” she says.
Arriving to the hospital as a patient or client can be a very stressful process. Blair says often times, people arrive with no personal belongings at all.
“Clients get to go over and spend time with Kathryn. She makes sure they receive enough and she is providing that retail service and people really appreciate it. They are able to identify their style by choosing items they love, and it brings them joy and happiness,” says Blair.
The Neighbourhood Sharing Closet is set up to feel like a store as well. It is outfitted with clothing racks, jewelry displays, even bags for people to take their items with them. There is also a tracking system in place to ensure fairness. And the collaboration goes even further, including the Volunteer Services and Spiritual Health departments who assist in keeping the store stocked with needed items.
Director of Volunteer Services Janet Hunter explains that any surplus items from the gift shops located at Providence Care Hospital and Providence Manor are donated to the Neighborhood Sharing Closet.
“Recently we donated a variety of purses and jewelry. We even receive donations from some of our gift shop suppliers for this initiative. They are thrilled to be able to contribute,” says Janet.
Donations also come from Providence Care’s annual winter wear clothing drive organized by the Spiritual Health department. The annual clothing drive has now been expanded to accept a wider variety of items that will be donated to the Neighborhood Sharing Closet, along with various other community organizations.
Blair says it is surprising how quickly items go out the door, especially with seasonal weather changes. Providence Care is seeking further donations for the Neighborhood Sharing Closet on an on-going basis. He says something as simple as shampoo or underwear is greatly appreciated by patients and clients and flies off the shelves quickly. Something so small means so much, and people get comfort in shopping for items that may not be as easily accessible during a hospital stay.
The Neighborhood Sharing Closet provides opportunities to build confidence, preserve dignity and provide much needed items to patients and clients along the way.
How can you help?
Providence Care is accepting donations of gently used adult clothing, winter wear and toiletries.
- winter coats (no wool coats or dress coats)
- water-proof winter boots (no dress boots)
- water-proof gloves, hats/scarves (non-knitted)
- warm socks
- new undergarments
- gently used casual clothing of any kind (adult only, no children)
- shoes, belts
- new toiletries such as shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, etc.
Donations can be dropped off between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the following locations:
Providence Care Hospital, Worship Centre, Level 2: 752 King Street West, Kingston, ON
Providence Transitional Care Centre, Main Lobby: 340 Union Street, Kingston, ON
Providence Manor, Main Lobby: 275 Sydenham Street, Kingston, ON
Questions? Contact Patricia Van Boxmeer.