Women Helping Women

By Judee Fong

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Anney Ardiel, owner of Act Together Moving Services, had a “Eureka!” moment when she realized her senior clients, who were downsizing to smaller accommodations, had amazing amounts of gently used household items and furniture being donated by the truckload each month to charity.

As a new member of Soroptimists International Victoria Westshore (SIVW), Anney learned there were young women, aging out of foster care or other social services programs, who were in immediate need of donated items. That eureka moment became “Anney’s Closet,” an extraordinary SIVW project, officially started in 2012, which exploded into a national success story.

Gently used household items including dishes, cutlery, chairs, small tables, lamps, bookshelves and small dressers fill every square foot of Anney’s Closet.

Teenaged girls, “aged-out” of foster care or ready to be on their own under the care of one of the Youth Advocate Partners such as Care Home Parenting Program under the Boys and Girls Club, Supported Independent Living, School District 62, Victoria Native Friendship Centre and other agencies, would receive an empty one-room apartment or accommodations to share. No beds, blankets or other necessities often taken for granted to make a space a “home.” Their small monthly stipend covered only rent and food.

“These young women would often need the necessities that morning because they’re moving into their apartment that afternoon,” explains Soroptimist member Joan Jackson about the need Anney’s Closet meets. “Sometimes, the girls are overwhelmed by the choices, which are all free. They’re too shy to take what they need. They’ll pick out some things such as sheets, towels, blankets, dishes, flatware, but it’s not until they get home that they realize they could have used a few more things. They would contact their outreach worker and arrange for another ‘shopping trip.’”

“One of our first recipient was a young girl who had a real chip on her shoulder as she didn’t want to be here, didn’t want anything from us and she kept making negative comments,” recalls Joan. “By the time she left, she was planning to blog about her experience; she wanted to volunteer and she was going to tell her friends.”

Young mom Cynthia Newman remembers, “Anney’s Closet is such a fun experience because everyone always has a positive attitude. The people are very helpful. I was able to get all the things I needed to set up housekeeping. I also got my daughter, Charleigh, her crib, stroller and highchair.” Smiling, Cynthia adds, “The nicest part was I didn’t just get a carton filled with essentials, but had the fun of choosing things I needed. You leave feeling really good.”

Anna Harvey, President of SIVW, feels blessed that Victoria has a generous heart. At one time, there was a call for 18-20 rocking chairs and the community came through. “It seems the rocking motion creates a deeper bond between mom and baby. The response was amazing. Rocking chairs are one item that doesn’t linger long in Anney’s Closet,” she says.

At this time, baby clothes are not accepted, but infant furniture is. Small, cleaned stuffed animals are given to Emergency wards for traumatized kids. Cash donations are always welcome and are used to purchase grocery gift cards. The “Needs List” changes as the supply and demand changes, but the website www.anneyscloset.com provides a current “Needs List” and contact information for donation queries.

Anney’s Closet owes its success to its numerous donors, corporate sponsors and the army of volunteers whose enthusiasm and kind-heartedness provides labour, space and time. The Closet’s lockers are generously donated by Westshore U-Lock and Mini-Storage. Andrew Foster from Foster’s Moving and Storage has provided his movers and trucks when needed. Vancity is a supportive financial corporate sponsor and Anney Ardiel’s downsizing clients have generously donated their gently used items. As the public becomes more aware, donated goods have kept the Closet filled.

Dynamic duo, Beth Portingale and Patty Scott volunteer their time doing a tremendous job of organizing Anney’s Closet into a pleasant place for the girls to “shop.” When the shelves get bare, they are replenished with items from the warehouse lockers. Beth has been known to lovingly restore, like new, some furniture pieces.

Marianne Goodrich, an active donor, became involved when her friends, Sue Price and Brenda Fox, donated some items after reading an article about Anney's Closet.

“Heather Peterson, the manager of my building, became another active donor when a long-time resident in the building was moving to a care facility and wouldn’t need a lot of her household items and furnishings,” says Marianne. “Heather suggested her family could gather everything up and donate it to Anney's Closet. Another lady in the building had things to donate and it just kept coming.”

“When I found out the items were given to girls aging out of foster care, I had goose bumps,” says Marianne. “My parents fostered children when I was growing up. Anney’s Closet seemed so fitting and felt so right for me.”

Soroptimists are women of all ages, who bring with them a wealth of experience and interests. SIVW has been chartered since May 2010 and, during that time, has been active in seeking ways to help women and girls, both locally and internationally.

Money raised is put back into the organization to fund local awards as well as international projects. Anney’s Closet is a unique project that epitomizes the philosophy of the Soroptimists. Anna sums it up best, “Soroptimists mean ‘best for women.’ It’s teamwork and a lot of people making Anney’s Closet so successful. Women helping women — that’s what it’s all about!”

Contact Donations Coordinator, Beth Portingale at 250-886-2951 for donation queries.
Email for donations information at anneysclosetdonations@gmail.com  
For more info on Anney’s Closet and SIVW see www.anneyscloset.com




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Showing 1 to 3 of 3 comments.

Volunteering-gives one a fabulous feeling of joy-- and accomplishment of giving.. I have volunteered for years and loved every moment of doing it--still would be doing it--sadly -my stroke has prevented it. "Anney’s Closet" is an amazing project. There are many downsizing that do not know what or where to give their treasures too. Spread the word-give-and be happy. Congratulations to Anney Ardiel for this projecct.

Posted by Marian Chomcy | May 12, 2014 Report Violation

What a great program! Thank you to all of the volunteers (and donors) who put in their valuable time and smiles to make others lives a wee bit better.

Posted by Lexie Stoten | May 9, 2014 Report Violation

Anna Harvey has just emailed the wonderful news that Anney’s Closet has won the regional “ 2014 Celebrating Success” award. And Joan Jackson shared the news that Anney’s Closet has a “sister” for Soroptimists International TriCities is beginning their own Bea’s Kloset in the area of Coquitlam.” Congratulations SIVW on your inspirational labour of love!

Posted by Judee Fong | May 5, 2014 Report Violation

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