Children’s Clothing Closet supports children in need

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

As an organization grows, it’s only natural for it to begin to offer more services, and a local resident has taken on a charitable effort thats slots in perfectly with such an organization in town.

Earlier this month, the Fort Frances Family Centre celebrated five years in service to those in need in Fort Frances, now operating out of the Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau. While the centre has seen more than its fair share of challenges over the years, the organization is on strong footing these days, and are able to help offer more services to those in need than ever before. Once such service is being spearheaded by Sherri Shine, who has taken it upon herself to collect donations for children and infants in need across the region.

Shine has run the Children’s Clothing Closet out of the Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau for the past year, where she collects and distributes donated items for children in need.

“I have a Facebook page, if anybody wants to look it up,” Shine explained.

“I take donations of only children’s clothing, maybe baby items, diapers, bottles, wipes, things like that.”

Shine explains that she previously worked 18 years at Child and Family Services, and also has almost 30 years of experience as a foster parent, so she understands what young children need when it comes to donated items, as well as the types of items that are most in demand when someone might not have enough money to make ends meet.

“When I was working quite steady at Family and Children Services I would put posts on Facebook asking if anybody wanted to donate formula or diapers, and then at my own cost I would send them to northern communities,” Shine explained.

“Then once COVID hit, shipping everything was very expensive. I kind of decided this was going to be my baby, then people in the community could come in. I have a room upstairs here at the Volunteer Bureau where I have girl’s clothes and boy’s clothes, so anybody in the community can come in and take a look at the clothes and just pick through to see if there’s anything they need.”

In addition to people coming to check the items out in person, Shine noted that she still helps those who might not have a driver’s license or easily accessible modes of transportation by delivering items to them if they’re within a reasonable distance.

Having been doing this charitable work for three years now, previously operating out of her own home before she got the space at the Volunteer Bureau, Shine said she’s seen the needs in the community and surrounding areas increase with COVID. But the shifting shopping trends brought on by the same pandemic also turned out to work in her – and the children’s – favour.

“With COVID a lot of people couldn’t shop, they couldn’t get what they needed,” Shine said.

“Fortunately, for some people, they can order online. So they were ordering clothes and finding out, ‘well, they don’t fit my child,’ and then I was getting brand-new clothing items with tags on them. Then when I would put together clothes, someone might message me and say, ‘do you know anybody looking for, say, little girl’s size five clothes?’ Then I would put a post out and, sure enough, someone needs little girl’s size five. So it’s always a circle. The circle of coming in and going out.”

Of course, as the circle continues to do its thing, Shine noted that the biggest need she is seeing right now is clothing and materials for school-aged children in the community.

“I have a lot of parents messaging me, ‘do you have children size seven, children size eight?’ So elementary school children are who need clothes the most at this point. And diapers and wipes. Those are the things that most people in the community who just don’t have the income need. We all know what happened during COVID, and incomes changed, groceries went up.”

Grateful to the Volunteer Bureau for letting her use the upstairs space free of charge, Shine stressed that she is always accepting donations of items, with those looking to make donations able to contact her on Facebook via her personal page or the Children’s Clothes Closet page, as well as by calling the Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau / Family Centre at 274-9555.