A local non-profit is expanding its offerings, and will now be offering free clothes and housewares to local youth and their families who are in need.
Youth Unlimited Collingwood is now running The Collingwood Clothing Room, a free service of clothing and household items. Their online store launches officially this week, where youth and their families can peruse offerings from the comfort of their homes and pick three items that can be either delivered or picked up curbside.
Danielle White and her husband Aaron run The Door youth drop-in centre through Youth Unlimited, across the road from Collingwood Collegiate Institute, and are overseeing the project.
“We’ve always had items on-hand for anybody who might need them,” said White. “For the past year, while our programs have been widely disconnected (due to COVID-19), we realized we needed a better method to be able to serve those in the community. Our focus is really to reach out to students and their families, but we are open to anybody.”
The program was launched unofficially last week with three drop-offs complete. White expects the demand for the program will increase, as will the program offerings, after the official launch and once the website goes live.
“It shows there definitely is a need for this,” said White.
Donations are currently being done by appointment and through correspondence, as the group has limited storage space. All donated items are cleaned, sanitized and put up on the website regularly.
“It’s a challenge because so few (organizations) are taking donations right now,” she said. “We’re a simple point of contact to offer the community care. What we’ve realized is, even someone just picking up a jacket, it’s reminding people during a time where we’re so disconnected that there are people who care.”
The drop-in centre is part of the Youth Unlimited, Youth For Christ Highlands network that operates The Door youth centres in several communities across Ontario.
Since a physical drop-in centre doesn’t work under COVID-19 public health controls, the organization fast-tracked an idea to start an online chat and phone line specifically for youth earlier in 2020 called YU Chat, which has been operating for nearly a year.
Since launching in April 2020, White says the service has had more than 250 youth reach out province-wide, which is operated by 10 staff.
“It ranges from kids who are just home alone and are just reaching the end (of their rope), as many of us are... or connecting youth with food banks in their area, or pregnancy crisis care. It’s allowed us to be a bridge to some of those places and offer a listening ear,” said White.
Throughout the pandemic, White says the most common concern she’s hearing from youth is a struggle with mental health.
“We’ve seen an increase in youth that are talking about anxiety and stress. I think they have trouble defining it because it seems to touch every area in their lives. We are also seeing increasing gaps in food insecurity, housing insecurity and job insecurity,” she said.
While the chat service originally blossomed out of pandemic necessity, White says the number of teens that have used the service clearly demonstrates the need.
“I think it shows we live in a community that has great care for the people in it, and this is an opportunity for us to support each other,” she said.
The Collingwood Clothing Room website is expected to go live this week. If you’d like to donate or get more information about the program, click here.
Youth can reach YU Chat using a phone at 1-800-991-8984 or online at yuchat.ca.