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Students helping students at Nighthawks Closet

Store at Orillia Secondary School offers affordable winter wear, benefits women's shelter

Clothing is flying off the shelves at Nighthawks Closet.

Orillia Secondary School’s on-site shop opened late last week and students were clearly excited to snatch up some deals.

“When the store first opened, it was like everyone wanted to get here as soon as possible,” said Victoria Scott, one of the students volunteering at Nighthawks Closet.

The shop will be open during the lunch hour every Thursday this month. If it goes well, it might extend into December, with a focus on Christmas.

The focus now, though, is on providing affordable winter wear (all items cost between $1 and $5) and supporting a local cause. All proceeds will be donated to the Green Haven Shelter for Women. During its first day, Nighthawks Closet raised $130.

Any leftover clothing will go to Bag2School, which will provide the school money for the items and ship them overseas to be sold in developing countries.

With up to 80 per cent of textile waste in North America ending up in landfills, the local students are happy to do their part for the environment. Before opening Nighthawks Closet, they watched a documentary about textile waste.

“It was really, really sad to see how many clothes go to landfills. This is a better option,” said Eva Silvester, another student volunteer.

Nighthawks Closet is a community — and school community — effort. The clothing was donated by school staff and local churches, and the project involves students from the school’s entrepreneurship, environmental science, and fashion design programs.

Fashion design teacher Jessica Chittick was inspired to take action when she saw what some of the students were wearing.

“I started noticing a lot of students who didn’t have winter jackets,” she said.

That concern led to the effort that became Nighthawks Closet. Her students are looking after merchandising and quality control, while entrepreneurship students handled marketing, advertising and pricing.

“They’ve really enjoyed having a hands-on application of their knowledge and the group-work portion of it,” said entrepreneurship teacher Katie Guthrie. “It becomes a lot more valuable when they have to apply their skills like this.”

While organizing the project, Chittick had no idea how great the response would be from donors.

“I thought we’d maybe get four or five bags’ worth,” she said, noting at least 20 garbage bags full of clothing were donated.

Based on the Day 1 success of Nighthawks Closet, it’s likely the doors will stay open into December.

“There are so many possibilities,” Chittick said.