It is evident that poverty and economic hardship are at an all-time high in Calgary—there are struggling individuals and families in every ward in the city.
Inflation makes the cost of living difficult, and even one unfortunate life event such as a medical emergency or car repairs can set people back.
“I’ve actually had a long list of conversations with various people talking about what it means to be on the brink. What it means to be… one paycheque away,” Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott says.
“It’ll happen to almost everyone once in their lifetime, when they find themselves in a precarious financial situation and they need something.”.
Community initiatives around the city work hard to help individuals and families get through these hardships, including the new thrift store downtown, Good Thrift.
Working together to make an impact
Good Thrift is a fundraiser store for its sister organization just three doors down, Good Neighbour, that offers affordable second-hand items such as clothing and books.
“We really wanted to increase our impact in our community through programs and free offerings to our customers,” says Alice Lam, co-founder of Good Thrift and Good Neighbour.
Walcott praises the new thrift shop for filling a gap within the community.
“The work that Alice Lam is doing, and her partners at Good Thrift and Good Neighbor, that’s a model that I hope someone else can recreate over and over again repeatedly in every neighborhood across the city,” Walcott says.
Good Thrift and Good Neighbour are examples of how community initiatives can work together to help each other and make an impact.
“What makes it so impressive is when you see how much power actually sits within community and community members and how everyone can serve each other so effectively,” Walcott says.
“The work that’s happening in that building is a prime example of what happens when people actually step up to the plate all at once and see a project to fruition.”
An alternative to for-profit thrift stores
All of the proceeds raised from Good Thrift go back into the community by supporting projects run by Good Neighbour and helping it keep its doors open.
“I hope that people will see it as an alternative to for-profit thrift stores that are available in Calgary and support us instead so that they can see their money go back into the community,” says Lam.
Thrifting is a great way to find fashionable items at a reasonable price and help the environment by keeping clothing out of landfills.
However, while most thrift stores stop there, Good Thrift uses the money raised to fund free haircuts and buy food for community fridges in Calgary.
“I like to show that Calgary has a lot of heart and entrepreneurial spirit that can solve a lot of issues through cool business models like ours,” Lam says.
Giving back to the community
There are multiple community initiatives in the city that have pushed Lam and her team to achieve their successes.
“There’s lots of different folks who have the social enterprise model where you’re sustaining business, able to hire staff, but also giving back in a much bigger way to the local community,” says Lam.
“It’s really inspiring and I hope that it puts Calgary on the map and shows that we are different from other cities in that we’re leading the charge and social enterprises across the country.”
Lam and her team have big plans for the future, with a few ideas already in the works.
“In the future, we’re just going to keep responding to societal issues that we see,” says Lam.
“We’re hoping to eventually get into affordable housing projects and we want to start an affordable health collective health program.”
Big ideas for the future
There is an assumption around the world that Canada has an all-encompassing health-care system, but that is not the case.
“While it is exceptional on the international scale, there’s a lot that gets left behind such as mental health resources, chiropractics, physiotherapy, and all of the things that would happen just outside of the hospital,” says Walcott.
“All of the peripheral care needs that people have, those are things that you better have good benefits to get or you’re paying cash out of your pocket.”
Lam and her team recognize this and are working on a plan to make a difference for people who may not have the insurance to cover these necessities.
“We’re working on creating a format where practitioners can give back a day in a month where they can provide physiotherapy, massage, chiropractics, or whatever at a pay-what-you-can scale,” says Lam.
More to be done
Good Thrift is only a stepping stone for Lam and her team’s big ideas to help the community thrive.
Initiatives like Good Thrift help give back to the community, but much more needs to be done.
“I’m hoping that they can inspire other people to assist and work in all the other different spaces that we find ourselves in those gaps,” Walcott says.
Good Thrift is open every Saturday and Sunday.