SASKATOON, SK (March 25, 2011) – Joanne Villeneuve was struggling financially and needed clothes, but couldn’t afford them.
Knowing she wasn’t the only person in the same situation, she started a “clothing depot,” getting her first donations by placing requests for items on a local Internet classifieds list.
She operated the depot out of her basement for nearly a year, but the project outgrew the space. Villeneuve also was becoming concerned for her safety because people were stopping by at all hours of the night looking for clothing.
Villeneuve attends College Park Evangelical Covenant Church, so she asked whether the congregation would be willing to host the depot. So for the last two years, the church has opened its doors once a month so people can get whatever they need for free.
About 70 people make use of the ministry each month. They don’t come just to receive, however. Many of them arrive with clothes that they or their children might have outgrown.
They leave with new opportunities for a fresh start. For example, there was the tall, African immigrant who just arrived in the country and was looking for work. The depot had just received a suit that fit him. Donna Fenton, who now runs the ministry, says the man left walking just a little bit taller.
Fire had destroyed the house of one woman who benefited from the depot. After picking up clothing, she said, “It was like Christmas.”
When the depot isn’t open, church members spend time sorting and hanging the clothes.
The depot continues to advertise on the Internet classified site to attract new people, but word-of-mouth publicity has been the most effective means of attracting donors and recipients.
“It has been helping the church look beyond itself, and we have been developing great relationships with the community,” says Pastor Brandon Shurr.
Since she first started the ministry, Villeneuve’s financial situation has improved and she has no personal need for free clothes. Still, the ministry that began in her basement continues to help people throughout Saskatoon who do.