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Montrealers shop for a cause

by Bryanna Frankel March 12, 2019
Montrealers shop for a cause

New fundraiser challenges fast fashion while helping women in need

The first Shop For A Cause fundraiser, a non-profit clothing drive and silent auction to help women in need, took place at The Boho Lab on March 8.

On International Women’s Day, the Shop For A Cause fundraiser sold women’s apparel 50 per cent off. They also offered prizes and hosted a silent auction. All proceeds were donated to the Old Brewery Mission, specifically the Patricia Mackenzie Pavilion, which offers health services and shelter to homeless women.

The Mission has a six year (2014-2020) campaign to collect $55.5 million to offer emergency services, housing, community support and knowledge building to help the homeless transition back into society, according to The Old Brewery Mission.

Shop For A Cause was created by best friends Karen Brown and Raj Nair, in July 2018. Their mission is to help women, families and children in need.

Brown and Nair are also fighting against the fast fashion industry to diminish the size of landfills by giving unwanted clothes a second life. In October 2018, Brown and Nair began collecting used clothes at Montrealers’ homes in preparation for the fundraiser.

“I didn’t even realize there was a thing called fast fashion because I was a victim of it,” said Brown. Fast fashion is the rapid production of clothing to keep up with new fashion trends. Consumers buy new clothes to replace clothes that the market deems outdated. Unwanted clothes thrown in the trash increase the size of landfills.

Polyester, nylon, and acrylic are made from petroleum, which takes thousands of years to biodegrade, according to CBC.

“After doing some research I found out fake clothing bins existed,” said Brown. “The clothes donated were being sold to third world countries or simply thrown away.” Brown had donated clothes to a local organization. She went back to repurchase items she regretted giving away, but they were never put on sale.

To confirm an organization’s legitimacy, all non-profits have a charity number which can be found on the Canada Revenue Agency’s list of charities or Charity Intelligence of Canada.

“I learned about the event from The Old Brewery,” said the event’s first customer of the day, who goes by Mrs. Griffin. “I wanted to support the cause, especially knowing they are selling gently used clothes.” Mrs. Griffin purchased recycled leather gloves made by Montreal-based brand Kazak.

The fundraiser had over 30 sponsors. Nintendo donated a Nintendo Classic Edition entertainment system and the Montreal Alouettes donated four tickets to their opening game for the silent auction. Canadian clothing brand Yoga Jeans donated over 40 pairs of jeans to be sold at the event. Yoga Jeans, owned by Second Clothing, has been manufacturing in Beauce, Quebec since 2011, according to Second Clothing designer Ariane Brunet-Juteau.

Brown and Nair have volunteered at the Old Brewery Mission for four years. Brown chose to donate to the Patricia Mackenzie Pavilion because it is a homeless shelter exclusively for women. Few Montreal shelters have a women’s division: The Old Brewery Mission and the Welfare Association Chaînon are among the only shelters in Montreal that do.

The Patricia Mackenzie Pavilion “never turns anyone away,” said Brown. “They’ll just turn the office or the kitchen into a bedroom for the night.”

The Patricia Mackenzie Pavilion has three floors. The main offices and kitchen are on the first floor. The second floor has 80 beds to shelter homeless women for an unlimited time. The third floor replicates an apartment building. The women are able to transition from the shelter back into society by living and by cooking with others.

The last Montreal homeless count in 2015 declared over 3,000 people were without homes, according to CBC.

Montreal Mayor, Valerie Plante’s Projet de Montreal has been tackling the homeless epidemic. In 2017, Project de Montreal released a statement announcing the city’s commitment to building 300 units of housing per year and committing to developing a 211 emergency service.

On Jan. 17, 2019, Plante organized a temporary shelter at the old Royal Victoria Hospital. Eighty beds are installed in the shelter, which opens from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day until April 15, 2019. This year, 957 beds are available in temporary shelters, which is 68 more than last year, according to The Montreal Gazette.

“Karen reached out and I was happy to contribute to her cause,” said the owner of The Boho Lab, Hamza Menebhi. The Boho Lab lent their space to Shop For A Cause for their fundraiser. The store opened in May 2018, according to Menebhi, and sells homemade decor.

“We can’t help [homeless people] directly,” said Nair. “If we can cause a spark in others to help, that’s all that matters.”

Photo by Bryanna Frankel.

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