Last March, when Parksville’s Fresh Boutique had to temporarily close due to the COVID pandemic, shop owners Joan Classen and Katie Cooke knew fairly quickly that in order to re-open, they would need a lot more open space for customers to shop safely and comfortably.
They could either pack up their excess inventory and store it, or donate it. For the mother-and-daughter shop, it was an easy decision to give back to the community, as they wanted to find a local cause that worked directly with people who could use it the most.
Aimee Falkenberg is the co-ordinator of the forensic nursing examiner (FNE) program for the Central and North Island. Forensic nurse examiners are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week to see survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, anytime up to seven days following an assault. They are always on the lookout for donations to the program, as survivors have to give up their clothing as forensic evidence, and often leave the hospital or clinic with nothing but their wallet.
A Parksville resident and mother of four, Falkenberg belongs to a local mother’s group and has shared that she is always on the lookout for donations to the FNE program. By putting out feelers on social media, Classen and Cooke heard that the FNE program was looking for donations and reached out.
“I was absolutely overwhelmed by their generosity and started to cry, knowing how many people will be able to benefit from their donation,” said Falkenberg. “This is an opportunity for survivors of sexual assault to get a brand new pair of jeans and a beautiful top for themselves when they have to part with their clothes after a horrible event.”
The Fresh Boutique owners almost emptied their store, offering 12 boxes of new clothes ranging from summer dresses, capris, T-shirts and jeans to work clothes and fancy summer wear. Falkenberg distributed the clothing to hospitals and clinics from Cowichan to Tofino, where forensic nurses are on standby. Falkenberg also shared the clothing donation with the free clothing store at Haven Society in Nanaimo, an organization that provides temporary shelter for women who have experienced violence and also help marginalized women in need of clothing for job interviews.
“We are thrilled that we found two wonderful causes that are benefiting from our donation. We have decided to donate the contents of our store to the forensic nursing examiner program at the end of every season as it allows us to always have fresh inventory and keep the store spacious for our customers, while still helping those in need.”
Information on forensic nursing examiner services can be found at www.islandhealth.ca/our-services/forensic-nursing-services.
— NEWS Staff, submitted