YSM Double Take: A Season of GrowthOthers, COVID-19 , Poverty
Contributed by: Yonge Street Mission
Written by Ainsley Boyd
Meet Sharon Abel, the new manager of Yonge Street Mission’s (YSM) Double Take Thrift Store. Sharon has lived in the Regent Park neighbourhood for over thirteen years and remembers first visiting Double Take while working as a costume designer. Her frequent trips increased when she began volunteering with teenagers in the community teaching sewing, mending and upcycling. She got to know the staff and was commissioned to create a wall hanging for the store.
A few years later she started working at YSM Evergreen Centre for Street-involved Youth, drawing on her creative skills to start a drop-in art program that evolved into Jubilee Designs, a social enterprise where youth produce high-quality consumer textile products and lead corporate team-building workshops. Double Take provides many of the materials for both programs as well as continuing to supply high-quality clothing to youth at the centre.
In the summer of 2020, Sharon stepped into the role of Double Take Store Manager. It’s been a year of cautious optimism as the staff have weathered the storm of the pandemic, working hard to balance the tension between keeping the community safe and being able to provide the thrifted items people need.
Accepting donations in 1912
Throughout the winter, her team has been focusing on providing bulk orders of winter clothing to local agencies who support neighbours struggling with poverty. Sharon notes, “Since we have an industrial steam press, it’s so much easier for us to clean the clothes than it is for frontline workers. If they have to do laundry, they have less time to spend with community members who need someone to talk to!” She laughs, “I also remember the overwhelming feeling when I was working in the drop-in and we’d receive way too many of one kind of clothing but not enough practical, everyday items for the youth. This way, frontline workers can request whatever clothing they need and we put together their orders.” The staff have been so encouraged by the amount of local support they’ve received this winter – every time there was a call-out on social media for particular sizes of coats or boots they would often show up the very next day.
Now that spring is here, Sharon and her team are starting to shift towards new opportunities. “We’ve been trying to use our time wisely throughout the winter and work on issues customers have identified to the team in the past. We’re finding solutions by restructuring our pricing system and speeding up our checkout process with a barcode system. It’s been a lot of work and we’re still in the middle of it, but we can’t wait to share the changes with our community when we fully re-open.” At the moment, Double Take is serving customers through their new online platform and at-the-door sales, you can follow their updates and learn more on Facebook and Instagram at @doubletakeysm, or sign up for email updates at ysm.ca/Double-Take!