Sorting and organizing clothes by gender has been done for decades, but a thrift shop run by a women’s shelter in Labrador is changing up the practice to better reflect and include the community.
Thrifty Fashions in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, run by the Mokami Status of Women Council, has been a staple in the community for decades and provides free clothing to people in shelters and those in need throughout Labrador’s north coast.
Now staff are modernizing the shop by no longer distinguishing clothing as “men’s” or “women’s.”
“We want people to come in here and feel safe, feel, recognize, feel acknowledged. And so we are going to start organizing our store and sorting our donations by item instead of by gender,” said Stacey Hoffe, the organization’s executive director.
Mokami has launched a new campaign, called Clothes Have No Gender, that encourages people to wear what they feel comfortable in, regardless of the label. Hofffe said it’s part of a commitment announced this past summer to make the organization more inclusive for gender-diverse people.
Jade Rachwal, a gender-nonconforming volunteer with Safe Alliance in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, said it’s great to see the commitment to providing a safe space.
“I think the campaign certainly speaks the truth in that clothes do not have any gender, and it can be a very positive thing to challenge gender norms that are often quite restrictive,” Rachwal said.
Rachwal said Mokami has supported the LGBTQ community for a number of years and she’s glad to see that continue. Mokami posted on social media that the organization has been a part of the problem in the past by excluding people “who are gender diverse through binary policies, binary procedures and binary thinking,” according to its Facebook post, and is working to change. Rachwal called it is a positive step.
“I absolutely respect that Mokami is open in acknowledging that they can change and improve. That’s incredibly healthy because I think all of us, as we work towards being more inclusive, will find ways to improve as we go along,” Rachwal said.
Manager hopes for larger space for second-hand shop
Thrifty Fashions manager Dawn Crocker said it’s a welcome change. Crocker has been advocating for those in need after a friend of hers died on the trails in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
“She was a dear friend of mine through my past employment and I just thought, you know, this shouldn’t be. There’s people in our community who are in need and their needs are being met. And I don’t want anybody else to suffer, as she did,” Crocker said.
The Labrador woman started a blanket drive not long after and is now able to give out blankets, mitts, hats, jackets and more to those in need. The Mokami Status of Women council has a free voucher program for parents or individuals in need where they can exchange it for clothing.
“Even if it’s a pair of socks or a pair of mitts or wool head scarf blanket that you know they’re going to be warm and this is a safe place to come and ask for that help,” Crocker said. “It’s a very gratifying position when you see the looks on people’s faces.”
Crocker said it gets busy and the shop received so many donations they had to close down taking in donations for three weeks during the summer. Along with the labelling changes, said Crocker, she hopes to have a larger space in the future.