PEI

P.E.I.'s Wo-He-Lo Club going strong at 83

The Wo-He-Lo Club's twice-yearly clothing sales have turned it into to a fundraising juggernaut that generates more than $50,000 annually for babies at the QEH.

'It is important to take care of tiniest and most fragile patients in P.E.I.,' says Valerie Owen

Wo-He-Lo Club member Sandy Colohan shows off some of the clothing she's collected for the twice-yearly clothing sale at the QEH. (Sara Fraser/CBC)

They started in 1933 by hosting teas that cost 25 cents, fundraising and knitting items for babies born at the Prince Edward Island Hospital — now the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Now, the Wo-He-Lo Club's twice-yearly clothing sales have turned it into to a fundraising juggernaut that generates more than $50,000 annually for the hospital's nursery and neo-natal intensive care unit.

She spends about $150 dollars at each sale and gets her whole year's work wardrobe there.— Valerie Owen

"Everybody loves babies," said Valerie Owen, the group's spokesperson and a past club president.

"In particular we think it is important to take care of tiniest and most fragile patients in P.E.I."

Wo-He-Lo stands for work, help and love. Under its constitution, there are never more than 25 members — all female.

The club relies on the hospital to identify what's needed each year — this year, it's a $50,000 infant resuscitator.

Network of donors

Every spring and fall, the members call on a network of donors to give their gently-used quality clothing and accessories for men, women and children.

An undated photo of some early Wo-He-Lo members. (Submitted by Wo-He-Lo)

They gather the items at their homes — laundering and mending if needed — then take them to the QEH for a massive sale that's open to both hospital staff and the public.

This year's fall sale is Wednesday, Oct. 19 from noon to 4 p.m., Thursday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

'Nothing goes to waste'

Thousands of people head out to the sales, taking advantage of $10 sweaters, pants and skirts, $25 coats, $3 children's outfits and $7 shoes and purses — prices that haven't changed much in recent years.

Shoes at the club's biannual sale are just $7 a pair. (Submitted by Wo-He-Lo)

"Nothing goes to waste," Owen said, noting that when each sale is over, groups such as the PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada are invited in to take clothing for their clients.

P.E.I.'s Mikinduri Children of Hope Foundation picks up any leftovers and sells them to Value Village, using the funds to feed school children in Kenya.

Last year the Wo-He-Lo's donations to Mikinduri fed more than 7,000 Kenyan children, said Owen.

"So we feel really good about that."

Let's make a deal

One young Charlottetown professional did a testimonial for Wo-He-Lo's Facebook page, chronicling her positive experience shopping at the sales.

A photo of the Wo-He-Lo clothing sale from the early 1990s, when it was held in a Charlottetown church hall. (Submitted by Wo-He-Lo)

"She says she spends about $150 dollars at each sale and gets her whole year's work wardrobe there," said Owens.

The first day of the sale is "quite chaotic," with large crowds, notes Owens.

"But everybody's having a good time and everybody walks away with a bargain."

The crowded space on the third floor of the QEH, is "a limitation," notes Owen, but it's provided free of charge, so they'll likely stay there.

Don't forget some scrubbies

Another popular feature of the sales is its "scrubbies."

Most of the current members of the Wo-He-Lo club gather at the QEH for a group shot. (Submitted by Wo-He-Lo)

Members crochet hundreds of round pot scrubbers throughout the year, selling them for $3 each. Each year the scrubbies alone raise about $1,000, Owens said.

As well as a fundraising group, it's always been very much a social club, Owens said — meeting twice a month to plan and sometimes for "bring and buy" nights, where members bring an item and others buy it.

About the Author

Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) degree. She's worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email sara.fraser@cbc.ca