Syrian refugees offered help by Toronto's largest clothing bank

With the official start of winter just a couple of weeks away, Toronto's largest clothing bank is opening its doors to Syrian refugees, offering them clothing for free as well as other services to help them get settled.

New Circles Community Services says $50 donation can clothe an adult for a year

New Circles Community Service executive director Alykhan Suleman says his registered charity is looking for donations to clothe Syrian refugees coming to Toronto. (CBC News)

With the official start of winter just a couple of weeks away, Toronto's largest clothing bank is opening its doors to Syrian refugees, offering them clothing for free as well as other services to help them get settled. 

New Circles Community Services is giving the refugees access to its gently-used clothing program. Newly arrived families can pick out their own clothing at the organization's free department store.  

"They can come here twice a year for the next two years, and pick up clothing spring, summer, fall, winter to make sure their needs and their families' needs are met," New Circles executive director Alykhan Suleman told CBC News.

The registered charity is offering the services to Syrian refugees being sponsored by private groups and through Lifeline Syria, Suleman said.

For $50, New Circles says it can clothe an adult from head-to-toe for an entire year.

It's all part of a push to accommodate and support the thousands of Syrian refugees expected to settle in Toronto over the next few months.

Ottawa, the province, local governments and private charities will help bring at least 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by March 2016, with as many as 2,600 privately-sponsored refugees expected to settle in the Toronto area.

Not only will families receive clothing, they can also access social programs, language tutoring and other training opportunities for free thanks to New Circles, the charity said in a news release.

"We have lots of capacity to sort and distribute clothing, a great team of volunteers and a wide network of clothing donors and agency partners," Suleman said. 

New Circles Community Services runs a clothing bank at 161 Bartley Dr. that serves thousands every year, providing free clothing and other services to refugees and low-income people. (CBC News)

For the past 10 years, New Circles Community Services has provided the free clothing service in Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park where the majority of residents are newcomers and refugees.

The charity operates out of a store at 161 Bartley Dr. near Eglinton Avenue East and Victoria Park Avenue, where New Circle says 8,500 people shop for free every year.

"I feel wonderful when I leave here everyday," said Melanie Lauber, who started volunteering at New Circles four years ago.

 Lauber sorts clothing donations and helps clients in the store.   

"To find that jacket or that one piece of clothing that someone needs and they are so thrilled, it makes you feel amazing."

To deal with the extra demand, New Circles is looking for more gently-used clothing donations including winter coats and boots.  

"We're often short in clothing in terms of men's and boys, especially casual attire," Suleman told CBC News.

New Circles also accepts financial donations at the charity's website.    


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