Local charity to launch new thrift shop downtown Kingston

A Kingston-based charity is opening a new thrift shop downtown with the help of a generous grant from a Queen’s student club.

Anna Stafford
Kicker

KINGSTON, Ont. — Queen’s University student organization Vogue Charity Fashion Show has pledged to donate the revenue from its annual fashion show to help local charity Almost Home launch its own thrift shop.

Almost Home provides accommodations to families of children receiving treatment at any of the Kingston hospitals. There are 11 rooms available, for just $10 a night.

It’s an attractive alternative to an expensive hotel room for several families, who find themselves in Kingston under already stressful circumstances.

Almost Home requires about $320,000 each year to operate. Sam Macleod, Almost Home’s fund development manager, is responsible for finding that money.

He has his work cut out for him. Almost Home receives no government or agency funding. Instead, it is funded entirely by the community through local fundraisers and the occasional grant here or there.

Unsurprisingly, funding is even harder to find this year. Most third-party fundraisers have grinded to a halt since the pandemic began, and Macleod has had to rethink and reconfigure the regular fundraisers Almost Home depends on.

Macleod says opening a thrift store is the perfect idea in light of these challenges. The rest of the Almost Home team agrees with him. When he pitched the idea, he received immediate support.

“It’s an idea that took off a lot quicker than I thought,” Macleod said.

Macleod says the support from the rest of his team indicates the store’s potential for success.

“It checks off so many boxes.”.

Two Queen's students stand outside Kingston charity they are giving a grant to.
Queen’s University students Joel Fiset and Lucia Beram stand outside Almost Home. They selected Almost Home as the recipient of their club’s annual grant. Anna Stafford/Kicker

He sees it as a “recession resilient” funding source because it relies on charitable donations from the community. He says it can withstand a post-coronavirus economy. It’s also environmentally friendly, which is important to everyone at Almost Home.

Once Vogue Charity Fashion Show came on board, the idea of the thrift shop seemed even more likely to succeed. The student organization provides a valuable connection to the Queen’s community, which will be a target audience for the store.

Macleod recognizes that thrifting is becoming more and more popular among students, especially because it’s sustainable.

Vogue Charity Fashion Show donates its show’s revenue to a different Kingston charity each year. The annual show is the largest student-run fashion show in Canada, with more than 100 students involved between the cast and crew.

Last year’s grant was $87,000.

The grant from Vogue Charity Fashion Show, along with some reserve funding, should be enough to kickstart the store. After the first year, Macleod anticipates the store will fund itself and start to generate revenue.

One of Almost Home’s several long-time volunteers, Jane Cunningham, suggests that the thrift store idea is typical of Macleod.

“He’s always coming up with very good ideas,” Cunningham said.

The students from Vogue Charity Fashion Show were also eager to jump on board when they heard Macleod’s idea.

Joel Fiset, 19, and Lucia Beram, 21, from Vogue Charity Fashion Show, spearhead the process for choosing which charity receives the grant.

In addition to the standard application, Macleod presented the students with a detailed plan for the thrift store. The idea was of course popular among a group of university students interested in fashion.

“That was something that was super exciting and really drew us together,” Fiset said.

Not only did the students gravitate towards Macleod’s application because of their interest in fashion but they also knew they could support the project in non-monetary ways, in addition to donating the show’s revenue.

Fiset and Beram plan to organize ongoing clothing drives on campus for the store, as well as assist in promotion among the fashion community at Queen’s.

They feel more comfortable selecting a charity they can partner with in a variety of capacities, in case the show makes less money this year due to Covid-19.

“At this point, we’ve pretty much accepted that it will be online,” Beram said. The organizers are still working out the details for what this will look like. The show will take place in spring of 2021.

Macleod plans to return the favour of promotion. The thrift store will feature work by the student designers, and the students will sell tickets to their fashion show out of the storefront.

Macleod, Fiset, and Beram all agree there’s potential for a long-term relationship here, even though the students will be selecting new charities each year for the grant.

Downtown Kingston street and storefronts
Sam Macleod is currently looking for a space in downtown Kingston for the new thrift store. Princess Street, pictured here, is the main street in downtown Kingston. Anna Stafford/Kicker

Based on his research, Macleod hopes the thrift store will make around $50,000 per year by the third year of operation, and $100,000 per year by the fifth year.

The store plans to hire a full-time manager along with a mix of full time and part time staff.

Now Macleod is focused on finding the right physical space for the store. He is looking for spaces in Kingston’s downtown core so that the store will be easily accessible for Queen’s students.

Vogue Charity Fashion Show will begin clothing drives for the store next month. Almost Home plans to launch the store in the spring of 2021.

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