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This chic online thrift shop benefits victims of domestic violence in Vancouver

Each month, the Battered Women's Support Services reports a staggering  $80,000 of revenue loss due to the shops’ temporary closures.
domestic-violence-bwss
Each month, the BWSS reports a staggering  $80,000 of revenue loss due to the shops’ temporary closures. Photo: Domestic violence / Getty Images

Isolation is key to slowing the spread of COVID-19. However, it can have debilitating consequences for many people.

While it can be difficult to live alone, living with a partner under isolation poses a number of challenges. Any issues that existed prior to the pandemic may be exacerbated, and new ones may also arise.

Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director at Battered Women's Support Services, states that the BWSS Crisis Line has seen a staggering 300 per cent increase in calls since the COVID-19 pandemic started in B.C. What's more, a boutique shop that supports the BWSS, My Sister's Closet, had to temporarily close its two stores back in March.

With its stores closed, the BWSS has lost vital revenue that supports its already underfunded essential services. Each month, it reports a staggering  $80,000 of revenue loss due to the shops’ temporary closures.

Now, My Sister’s Closet has launched its online shop to sustain the essential, life-saving programs of Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) in light of increased demands illuminated by COVID-19. 

My Sister's Closet online shop presents a collection of creations by local women artisans, new and gently-used items from shoes, clothes, to accessories, and will be available starting on Friday, May 1 at 9 a.m. Founded in 2001, the store has been instrumental in funding advocacy work for survivors and victims of gender-based violence, as well as the zero waste, eco-fashion, and thrift movement.

“We had to think quick and act even quicker since we rely heavily on donations from individuals and groups, as well as on the support we receive from My Sister’s Closet,” said MacDougall. “The interactions and relationships we had with our donors through the store was tantamount to our stores’ success over the past decades and we appreciate the generosity and concern of our community; it was time for us to transition to an online shop.”

By supporting My Sister's Closet, customers divert waste from landfills as well as help BWSS respond to the 18,000 requests for services they receive annually. The store accepts laundered, gently-worn, and high quality items that would otherwise be considered waste, which extends the life of clothes. Further, shoppers can help, "reduce their carbon and water footprints by 20 to 30 per cent for each item they reuse."

Funds raised from the online store will go to the following: 

  • keeping BWSS crisis lines open to 24 hours, seven days a week with support from trained and professional anti-violence and victim support staff
  • legal advocacy to help victims and survivors navigate through complex law systems heightened by the quarantine
  • employment services that empower Two-Spirit people, non-binary people, trans women, and cis women enhance their skills and employability during this time
  • counselling that promote mental wellness and healing especially during this traumatic and triggering period
  • providing talk minutes and internet data for women to stay connected to crisis lines, counselors, and emergency services 
  • translating COVID-19 information as it relates to domestic violence to different languages, reaching more women than we typically would
  • making sure women and their families have access to food cards and food delivery
  • and more

 “As we always had, we meticulously check each item to ensure shoppers are receiving high quality products, at reasonable prices while also supporting people who access Battered Women's Support Services,” said Samantha Kearney, Battered Women’s Support Services’ Manager of Resource Development and Social Enterprise. “We take health and safety precautionary measures seriously behind the scenes and we are excited to expand our services.”

For those who are spring cleaning, BWSS asks to, "keep in mind that the designer handbag in the back of your closet provides a two-hour legal advocacy workshop."

My Sister’s Closet Online Shop will continue to accept laundered, gently-used items for donation, and will be practicing physical distancing from donors who are requested to make an appointment ahead of time. If interested, please call 778-996-5451 or email mrsp@bwss.org.

My Sister’s Closet’s two physical stores will re-open once health and public safety restrictions are lifted.