Long-term volunteers keep Riverside Clothing store afloat

Fifteen years ago, Gary Scammell was one of 200 people laid off by Core Laboratories, a Calgary oil company. He was unable to pay his rent and at age 50, began to live at the Calgary Drop-In Centre.

Ten years later, Scammell is now on government pension and continues to reside at the Drop-In Centre utilizing their supported living program and contributing to his community by volunteering every Monday and Thursday at Riverside Clothing.

Produced by: J. Chelsea Barclay

Grateful for all that the Drop-In Centre has provided him with, Scammell found he wanted to do more for the community that had helped him so generously.

“I was a resident here at the time and I just picked something to do, and it ended up being a likable thing,” says Scammell.

Scammell speaks from experience when he says how comforting it is to know that if you can’t afford that $6 pair of jeans from a thrift store, you can come to Riverside Clothing and get that pair of jeans for free.

“It’s not only residents of the Drop-In Centre that come here, it’s families who may not otherwise be able to afford what they need that come here.” Says Scammell.

Free, free, free

Many churches and organizations around the city are recognized for giving clothing away for free; however Riverside Clothing is one of only a few stores in Calgary that is open every week and gives all of its merchandise away for free.

Riverside Clothing is open every Monday and Thursday, between 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. to residents of the Drop-In Centre and members of the general public. Individuals are generally allowed to take 10 free items a day.

Don Heckenliable, one of only two full-time employees at Riverside Clothing, says donations move quickly, and are always welcome.

“There’s probably around 500 people that go through the store every week, and roughly 2,500 pieces of clothing that go with them,” says Heckenliable.

No volunteers, no existence

Donations and dock manager Glenn Spencer, says he agrees donations are a major part of the operation, but it’s the commitment and dedication of the volunteers that keeps not only Riverside Clothing, but the entire Drop-In Centre afloat.Glenn Spencer demonstrates how to sort through donations.
Photo by: J. Chelsea Barclay

“We don’t have the manpower or the financial resources on our own to be able to run this clothing store, so we definitely need the volunteers from the general public and we’re very fortunate we have them; they’re very reliable, committed and long term,” says Spencer.

Spencer says it’s unfortunate they don’t have any programs in place to recruit volunteers or keep them, but it’s very inspiring to have people like Scammell who have been volunteering for over 10 years.

Scammell says being able to volunteer at Riverside Clothing has given him much more then just a few good pair of jeans.

“It’s given me a lot of peace, knowing that I’m helping people as they come through that door,” says Scammell.

If you’d like to donate you can drop off your clothing anytime at the Drop-In Centre’s loading dock at 1 Dermot Baldwin Way S.E. or go here for more information.

jbarclay@cjournal.ca