Off the shelf, a stress reliever for teen mothers

As Cynthia Newman, 19, browses the household items stacked neatly in a storage locker, she pulls a juicer off the shelf.

It’s the teen mother’s third time visiting Anney’s Closet, which provides free household items to young women in need.

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When Newman first visited the space almost two years ago, she was preparing to move out of the Boys and Girls Club’s Care Home Parenting Program with her six-month-old daughter, Charleigh.

At 17, she had no job, no high school diploma and little financial support from parents who depended on welfare.

“Moving on my own was really important to me, but the stress of moving on my own was: Could I afford it? Could I survive? Would I have enough things?” Newman said.

“This covered a big huge portion of the things I’d have to buy, so it gave me more money to buy groceries for my daughter or take the bus more often or buy a bus pass. I got to put [the money] toward something else I also need.”

Newman was the first of about a dozen women between 17 and 21 to have found everything from cutlery to bedspreads to fill their first homes free of charge at Anney’s Closet, located in a locker donated by the West Shore U-Lock.

The service, which officially launched in June after operating informally for two years, helps to fill a gap in service for women at risk, according to Anna Harvey, president of the Soroptimist International Victoria Westshore, a local branch of the international women’s organization.

“We started it because we saw there was a need, there was this gap in service for young women who were coming out of foster care or those working with a youth agreement with the government,” Harvey said.

“They hit 17 or 18 and all of a sudden they have to find their first home. They might have a stipend from the government, but no goods.”

Anney’s Closet takes its name from Soroptimist Anney Ardiel, a professional downsizer who helps seniors move into smaller spaces and care homes, and was sending truckloads of excess items to charity each month.

It depends on donations from people like Marianne Goodrich, who searched for an organization that would give donations directly to community members in need.

When it came time to move her elderly mother into a care facility, Goodrich took a car full of items — some from her mother’s former home, some from her own, as well as some extras from friends and neighbours — to Anney’s Closet.

“It was quite a moving moment when I learned that they helped people coming out of foster care,” she said.

Goodrich’s parents welcomed about 30 foster care children through their home while she was growing up.

So while it was hard for her to give up the coverlets that her mother, who has since died, knitted, she saw some symmetry in the gesture.

“I have a feeling that she helped some young people indirectly to help start their home, almost like a continuation of the foster care that she and my dad gave,” Goodrich said.

The Soroptimists do not have the capacity to accept donations of furniture — with the exception of rocking chairs, which Harvey said are popular among young mothers.

Women in need are referred to the organization through social service agencies, including the Ministry of Children and Family Development, the Boys and Girls Club and the Umbrella Society for Addictions and Mental Health.

The Soroptimists’ goal is to expand to help two women per week.

As for Newman, she said Anney’s Closet has helped make her apartment feel good and comfortable.

“I came here and they just made me feel at home,” she said.

For more information, including a list of needed items, visit anneyscloset.com.

asmart@timescolonist.com

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