Charity relieves Back to School pressure for needy families

A Thunder Bay charity is hoping to make back to school time less stressful for low-income families by providing the essentials of new clothing and school supplies.

Clothing Assistance Mission in Thunder Bay says everyone deserves good quality clothes, supplies regardless of income

Brother and sister Dennis Dunne and Deborah Palo work at Thunder Bay's Clothing Assistance Mission and know first-hand what it's like to grow up in poverty. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

Back to school can be an exciting time, but it can also be stressful for low-income families who can’t afford all the new clothes and school supplies.

The Clothing Assistance Mission, a Thunder Bay charity, is hoping to relieve some of the stress by helping to provide the basics.

Brother and sister Dennis Dunne and Deborah Palo, who work at the charity's Clothing Assistance Distribution Centre on May Street, say this time of year brings back memories of their own poverty-stricken childhoods.

"We had one outfit, I remember, as kids," Palo said. "One outfit for the whole entire week that we had to take off every day after school."

The Clothing Assistance Distribution Centre on May Street in Thunder Bay helps take the stress off families who can't afford back to school expenses. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

Palo said she wishes they'd had a place like the clothing assistance centre to turn to when they were growing up.

At the centre, the racks are full of children's clothes — normally priced at $1, but for this week's back to school sale, the price is 50 cents.

Thunder Bay Clothing Assistance Mission

The charity receives funding from the United Way and relies on donations from the community. Right now the Clothing Distribution Centre urgently needs:

  • Children's shoes [including running shoes]
  • Clothing for children between four and 17 years old
  • Lightweight fall jackets
  • Backpacks
  • Binders
  • Markers
  • Rulers
  • Erasers
  • Duotangs
  • Paper
  • Pencils

Dunne said the centre relies on the generosity of the people of Thunder Bay, who donate clothing and other items.  

He added that the clothes must be in good condition.

"We like to put out nice things," Dunne said. "We feel that [our clients] deserve [that] as much as anybody else does."

He said during the back-to-school season, between 60 and 70 people are coming to the centre every day.   

"Kids come in all the time with their parents and the kids are excited ... because they see something new and they're all 'I want this, I want that,'" Dunne said.

"They're going to value these ... clothes," he said. "They're going to look after them and they're going to appreciate them. Because they're nice, they're new, they're clean and they're stylish, you know?" 

Arlene King regularly shops at the Clothing Assistance Mission for her three grandchildren as well as other kids in her neighbourhood.

"It's very costly if you go to other stores," she said.

Dunne said many people in need are grateful to have an affordable place to turn.

"Sometimes they leave with tears in their eyes. It's heartwrenching sometimes."