Dorothy Marshall

Dorothy Marshall

United Way ends funding for Red Deer clothing bank

For more than 40 years, the Red Deer Community Clothing Service, known as the clothing bank, has relied on funding from the United Way to pay its rent.

For more than 40 years, the Red Deer Community Clothing Service, known as the clothing bank, has relied on funding from the United Way to pay its rent.

But by the end of the year, that money will dry up.

“They’ve decided they’re changing their focus on some things and that we’re no longer eligible for funding through them,” said Ted Hayden, Red Deer Community Clothing Service president. “They used to provide us with rent, which is right now $2,858 a month.”

About 1,100 people per month rely on the clothing bank. Hayden said anybody in need is helped.

“We do not discriminate against anybody,” said Hayden. “The only questions we ask them are ones we need to for a record. We ask them their name and address.”

Among those who use the service are immigrants who don’t know how to dress for the Canadian climate.

“We see people get out of their vehicles out front in January and February wearing flip-flops and shorts and they’ll come in because they just don’t have anything,” said Hayden.

As well the working poor, those on minimum wage and trying to support children, plus the homeless, can come once a month. There are restrictions on what they can get.

Central Alberta United Way CEO Robert Mitchell said it was a tough decision to end funding to the clothing bank.

“The bottom line is we consider ourselves stewards of the community dollars and we want to get the best value for our donor dollars and ensure donor dollars are used as effectively as possible,” said Mitchell. “One thing we don’t want to get into is funding duplicated services and we found out there were eight different clothing services in Red Deer.”

Bargain Treasures, Bibles for Missions Thrift Store, Dress for Success, Golden Circle, Pregnancy Care Centre, John Howard Society Clothing Closet, Salvation Army Thrift Store and the Red Deer Community Clothing Service were all cited by Mitchell as active clothing services in the city.

“We’ve been trying get them (Red Deer Community Clothing Service) more sustainable and make some changes,” said Mitchell, adding they worked with the different groups and community volunteers to ensure more sustainable clothing services.

The United Way told the clothing bank in April that funding would end.

“We are asking more of our agencies, but in return we’re providing three-year funding and that was part of it,” said Mitchell. “We did feel the organization wasn’t looking like it was sustainable.”

To operate in 2014, Hayden said the clothing bank will need about $35,000 a year in donations from other sources.

“Wherever we can find it,” he said. “That’s what we’re doing right now, going around to different organizations and business that we know of and talking to them.”

At last Saturday’s public market, through Volunteer Red Deer, members spread the word about the funding shortfall.

“The response from quite a few people is shock,” said Hayden. “We’re strictly volunteers, we do not have a single employee, except maybe a janitor we pay to come in and clean. Other than that everybody is a volunteer.”

The organization does have enough funds to stay in its current location until March 2014.

In need of both money and volunteers, Hayden said people can stop by the clothing service when they are open, Tuesdays to Thursdays from noon to 4 p.m., or they can call Hayden at 403-346-3554.

mcrawford@bprda.wpengine.com