Skip to content

Clothes Line volunteers awash with enthusiasm for aiding Bradford

'Volunteering to me is just a way ... of meeting people, networking and getting to know the community,' says newcomer to Canada

It didn’t take Oyegoke Yusuf long to dive right into the community.

Having come from Nigeria as a refugee in October, Yusuf was keen to get involved in his new home town of Bradford. While waiting for his work permit, Yusuf decided he could still be useful. So in December, he signed up to volunteer with The Clothes Line Bradford, a social enterprise run by CONTACT Community Services.

“One of my aims in life is to assist people,” explains the 34-year-old man, “volunteering to me is just a way ... of meeting people, networking and getting to know the community.”

His overall goal is to settle down here and likely work in the digital world. And he already feels at home in Bradford.

The Clothes Line in Bradford came to life during the COVID-19 pandemic based on the Clothes Line model CONTACT Community Services had already been running in Alliston. Originally an office, the Holland Street space remained vacant during the world health crisis so it was repurposed. And thanks to concerted efforts in the community, it was transformed into a thrift store in six weeks.

The initiative is the charity’s largest ongoing fundraiser.

It is intended to be a welcoming, inclusive space that also serves as a gateway to the organization’s many programs and services. And it operates on the strength of its volunteers.

Linda Laviola got involved about two years ago. She found she had more time on her hands after her grandchildren went to school and decided to get more involved in the town which she’s called home for the past eight years.

The experience has been great, allowing her to get out more and meet people she enjoys spending time with. Last fall, she also became involved in the organization’s seniors committee.

“I find that there’s a lot of people in Bradford that are so giving,” says Laviola.

Emily McIntosh, executive director of CONTACT Community Services, describes the Clothes Line as “the pinnacle of sustainability."

“The environmental impact is huge” as a landfill diversion program, allowing unwanted clothing to be reused," she said.

“Both stores, combined, bring in just over, we hope, $300,000 this year," McIntosh said. "And all of those proceeds are invested directly back into our charitable programming. It’s essentially our most sustained fundraising effort.”

The stores offer volunteer opportunities for people of all walks of life and abilities, allowing them to reintegrate in the community, get work experience or to simply be involved. It also is available to all shoppers, whether or not they have the ability to pay. Those in need of free clothing or household items can access what they need through the organization or a referring agency.

The goal is to maximize the Bradford store to its full potential and then move to a larger location where it can offer a wider variety of items to include more household goods as well as clothing.

CONTACT is a 46-year-old registered charity that addresses a host of social needs across South Simcoe and operates with about 20 employees and dozens of volunteers.

It is a housing resource centre and has a program for those experiencing homelessness. It provides employment services for Bradford West Gwillimbury and the surrounding area. It also provides a host of other community services and tools, helping people across the southern portion of Simcoe County.

“We work with anybody who needs some assistance, whether that’s rental assistance or arrears assistance or looking for an apartment or house. We also work with people experiencing homelessness through our Housing First program,” McIntosh said.

There is also extensive seniors’ programming in the community that runs the gamut from ukelele lessons to line dancing.

A harm-reduction program is also available in Alliston.

For its volunteers, it’s about community.

“Together we can make Canada greater,” declares Yusuf. “I feel the best of Canada is yet to come.”