Anney’s Closet is a “free store” that takes household items donated by downsizing seniors, friends of Soroptimists, and other donors and provides women and girls in transition with furnishings for their new homes.
Girls and women who are referred to Anney’s Closet from advocates at over 20 partner social service agencies have the opportunity to select items from Anney’s Closet that will transform their new apartments into functional and comfortable homes.
LAAH: What exactly is it that you do?
Anney: We connect people in our community who have too much household stuff with women and girls who are starting out on their own.
Using household items donated by downsizing seniors, friends of Soroptimists, and other community and corporate donors, we’ve created a “free store” in storage lockers kindly donated by West Shore U-Lock. Girls and women who are referred to us from advocates at our partner social service agencies have the opportunity to select items from Anney’s Closet that will transform their new apartments into functional and comfortable homes.
LAAH: When did you start?
Anney: June 2012
LAAH: Why do you do it and what is the motivation or passion that keeps you going?
Anney: As a professional downsizer for seniors, I help elderly people to sort out their possessions and dispose of extra household items. When I told my Soroptimist club that I send truckloads of beautiful things to charity every month when downsizing my clients, they suggested I ask my clients if they’d like to redirect some of the very nicest things to help girls in our community who are starting out on their own.
The idea of Anney’s Closet was born. Through discussion with our contacts at Boys and Girls Club, social workers and youth advocates, we confirmed that there are many girls in our community who start out with nothing other than their clothes when they age out of the foster care system at age 18, or when they sign youth agreements between the ages of 16-18. Some of them are pregnant or parenting at the same time. The social workers thought our “free store” shopping sprees would be an incredible opportunity for these girls.
When we asked U-Lock West Shore if they would donate a locker on an ongoing basis for us to house Anney’s Closet, they offered their largest locker and their staff even contributed donated items to the locker.
As we spread our network further into the community, we saw the need to expand our mandate to help women of all ages. Now we have four storage lockers, countless donors, a dedicated team of volunteers and corporate support that allows us to help an average of two girls per week.
LAAH: Do you feel that what you have done so far has made a difference? If so, can you explain how?
Anney: Anney’s Closet has made a difference in so many ways, here’s a few:
- We have helped over 60 girls and women in our community so far who would otherwise have very little to stock their cupboards and decorate their homes. As we now average two visits per week, we expect to double the amount of women and girls we help next year.
- We have forged connections with 20 social service agencies (see the full list on our website) that now count Anney’s Closet as part of their support delivery toolbox.
- We have inspired another “Closet” on the mainland, Bea’s Kloset, run by Soroptimist International TriCities in Coquitlam and modelled on Anney’s Closet.
- We have been recognized internationally: We recently won an award within the global community of Soroptimist as Best Program in over 1300 clubs in 20 countries.
LAAH: Who are your allies and supporters in this enterprise?
Anney: We are members of Soroptimist International, a worldwide organization of women working to improve the lives of girls and women in local communities and around the world.
- Our allies consist of the social service agencies who connect us with the women and girls who visit Anney’s Closet. You can see the complete list of agencies on our website.
- Anney’s Closet is hosted by West Shore U-Lock Self Storage, a local and family-run company that provides us with four storage lockers at no charge. Their ongoing support is one of the main reasons why Anney’s Closet has succeeded.
- Our other key sponsor is Foster’s Moving. Andrew Foster donates their trucks and crew every time we need donations to be picked up or delivered.
- You can see a complete list of our sponsors on our website.
LAAH: Do you have plans to grow your involvement, to expand the scope of your project? If so, can you elaborate on these plans?
Anney: We’d love to support new Closets in any community that has a Soroptimist club, as we did with Bea’s Kloset in Coquitlam. Meanwhile in Victoria we are growing every day through the efforts of our volunteers and partners by reaching new donors, adding to our list of partner social service agencies and helping more women and girls.
LAAH: Like anything in life worth working for there must be difficulties and struggles too. Can you share with us what have been your greatest challenges?
Anney: At first, we had too much stuff in Anney’s Closet but we didn’t have partnerships with social service agencies to connect with girls who needed help. Now, we have lots of requests for clients to visit Anney’s Closet and our volunteers are challenged by this rising demand to keep our shelves stocked.
LAAH: How can people help you?
Anney: Donations of very gently used, clean, practical household items are a huge help to us. You can see a current Needs List on our website. Small amounts of donations can be dropped off at West Shore U-Lock on Saturday mornings, or contact us to arrange for delivery of larger items.
The Life As A Human team thanks Anney Ardiel and Anney’s Closet for the great work they are doing to help women and girls in transition and for giving us this interview. If you know Anney or anyone at Anney’s Closet, please leave them a comment. We know they would love to hear from you!
All Photos courtesy Anney Ardiel – All Rights Reserved