On a sunny Saturday in September, Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park brimmed with activity.
Piles of used clothing were heaped onto long wood tables, divided into men and women’s sections. Adjacent to the free clothing, which was donated, essential items like toothpaste, toothbrushes and other personal hygiene items were up for grabs.
In one corner, volunteer hairdressers provided free haircuts. In another, hot meals were served up.
This event, which was put on by staff and volunteers with Providence Health Care, has taken place twice a year for the past 17 years.
David Thompson with Providence Health Care said that the event is a good reminder to staff that the people accessing medical services have identities other than just patients.
“As a healthcare organization serving the downtown community and Vancouver as a whole, we think it’s a really important part of our mission to reach out to the community that we serve,” Thompson said.
“It’s an opportunity for staff and volunteers to see the people that we serve outside of the hospital setting, to create that strong connection and appreciate the lives that people have outside of when they come to us for healthcare.”
For many people, the event represents a chance to stock up on warm clothing before the cold winter months set in.
“I’m just looking for something to warm up for the winter,” said Ron as he sorted through piles of sweaters arranged on a table.
“It’s a good thing they’re doing here.”
A woman named Leah said she came hoping to find some comfortable, stretchy pants, and found a perfect pair in just the right size.
“It’s good because I don’t have to buy clothes. I can’t afford to. This is the only time I get clothes,” she said with a smile.
Like Ron, Leah did not want to give her last name.
Jaylene Hartnell with UBC’s On The Fringe Hair Design said she volunteers at the event every year.
“We usually get in around 30 [haircuts] in two hours, we love this,” she said.
Monica Dickson said she found some beautiful items that fit her well.
“I’m really grateful for them, I’m grateful for this. There are people that do care,” she said, holding up some of the clothing she picked out.
“You know what I love about this park? Everybody takes care of everybody.”
With files from Deborah Goble