Moments before they’re allowed inside, about 30 people are already lined up outside the back of the gym at North Delta Evangelical Church.
With them are strollers, shopping bags, boxes and the occasional child or two.
They’ve arrived for a bonanza of sorts – their choice of free clothes, provided by an aptly named Aldergrove-based charity Clothes2U.
The previous night, founder Ernie Jantzen spent more than two hours loading the items onto nearly 20 tables, sorted by type: Men’s/women’s clothes, baby clothes, linens, footwear and diapers.
There are also sections for toys and personal items such as books, movies, music and myriad household items.
And yes, it’s all free.
From left: Volunteer Dawn Lewis, founder Ernie Jantzen and client/volunteer Leslie Saumier.
At 10 a.m., the gym becomes a beehive of activity, like a retail store on Boxing Day.
Jantzen has been doing this about twice a month for the past nine years, bringing Clothes2U to churches from Richmond to Abbotsford.
Clothes2U doesn’t belong to any particular church, but its links with churches in the communities gives the charity plenty of opportunity to help – and to receive support in the form of donations and volunteers.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s what I signed up for,” says Jantzen. “There’s such a need for this, that it’s an ever-expanding endeavour.”
The merchandise, he explains, comes from private donations as well as retail stores.
“We actually do retailers a favour because they have merchandise they can’t sell.”
Jantzen explains that stores would have to pay to dispose of items that can’t be sold due to light damage or soiling.
“But we can take it. We can give it away. This way it goes to people who need it and a lot of people can’t afford it.”
When events are planned, word to those in need gets out through sponsoring churches, Facebook, Craigslist, the Clothes2U website and other community agencies.
“I feel really blessed when people walk out with garbage bags,” says Janzen. “Look at the people we helped. That really gives one a sense of accomplishment.”
Sometimes clients even give back.
On this day, while her boyfriend Allen Goodfellow browsed the book section, Leslie Saumier came to look for clothes and books.
But at other Clothes2U events, she has helped Jantzen set up shop.
For more information, to donate clothes or money (for gas), to see upcoming events or to volunteer with the non-profit society, visit www.clothes2u.ca or call 604-857-4617.