Vancouver thrift store marks 20 years to support women experiencing violence

A Vancouver clothing store dedicated to helping women who have experienced violence marks its 20th anniversary in the midst of a pandemic attack increase in domestic violence.

My Sister’s Closet is a social enterprise of Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS), a Vancouver-based organization that provides services and community education related to violence against women.

It says all of its revenue goes to fund BWSS programs and services.

BWSS CEO Angela Marie MacDougall said the organization has experienced a higher uptake of its services since the start of the pandemic.

“Our numbers are definitely higher from last year and previous years … we’ve definitely had lots of women associated with us through the store who deal with violence, either by calling the store themselves or peeking inside.”

The store sells new and used clothing and locally made creations by women. Both downtown and East Vancouver stores receive donations from the public.

MacDougall said that as a social enterprise, the goal of the store is to focus on people rather than profits.

“It allows people to be able to communicate with the problem in a way that is much more comfortable,” MacDougall said.

Another key principle in the store is to fight for sustainability by encouraging the recycling of clothing.

“We are helping to curb the flow of fabric to the landfill, which matters because the fashion industry is the second largest oil and gas polluter,” MacDougall said.

Something for everyone

Shannon Salter has been a regular customer of the store for over a decade. Salter said that when she first started working as a lawyer while managing student loan debt, she came to My Sister’s Closet for affordable professional clothing.

“There’s something for everyone. There’s clothes for every body and every price point … It’s such a wonderful, welcoming environment for everyone,” Salter said.

Salter also acts in My Sister’s Closet to support the organization’s mission, in addition to appreciating their clothing.

“I think they’re doing a huge amount of good for a very limited amount of funding … especially during the pandemic where the need for their services has really increased.”

Thursday, November 25 marks the start of an international 16-day activism-against-gender-violence campaign. The campaign, started by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, seeks to raise awareness of and end violence against women and girls.

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