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Charitable fashion on the racks with United Way Student Association

Photo: Marta Kierkus

If your grandma got you two-sizes-too-big pyjamas for Christmas and you were too polite to say anything, they don’t have to sit in your closet after all.

On Jan. 13, the United Way Student Association (UWSA) at the University of Ottawa will host a clothing swap where students can bring $5 and any amount of unloved clothing to make some trades.

The proceeds will go to the student aid fund, a bursary offered at the U of O.

“It’s a win-win for students that want to do something different when they come back from the winter break—get rid of their clothes, but also helping students that will need these funds throughout the year,” says Alexia Bystrzycki, the UWSA’s vice-president of communications.

The fund has been declining over the few years due to the recession and losing government help, according to United Way Campaign Officer Julie Vaillantcourt. One of UWSA’s central mandates is to hold fundraising initiatives for fellow students.

They also want to let others know about the work the association does. By holding events like the clothing swap, UWSA makes an effort to combat the funding downturn.

Created in 2006, the fund assists students faced with financial stress, to be used for urgent necessities such as food and access to services.

In 2010, thanks to a similar United Way campaign, 162 students received funds and food coupons. With the help of the university staff and various campaign activities, the group raised more than $78,000 in total that year.

“Higher education is a privilege,” says Elizabeth Nunan, the group’s vice-president social. She says these contributions help make sure students have the right to food security while they are obtaining their education.

The UWSA’s fundraising goal for this month’s clothing swap is $300.

Other events this year have included a launch fair, the Make Change Happen event that raised about $600 for the Student Aid Fund, free Zumba classes, a fundraising book drive with the U of O’s bookstore, and a dodge ball tournament.

The clothing swap allows students to give their wallet a rest after the holidays and still find some new or hardly worn items seen in contemporary clothing stores. Items include business casual wear such as jackets, dresses, and accessories—ideal items for job interviews that can be expensive on a student budget. For $5, participants can leave with an entirely new outfit.

“It’s all about initiating students to what the United Way does both on campus and outside of campus, and how they can get involved—we want to start that discussion,” Bystrzycki says.

Nunan says it’s also a place to engage and connect with like-minded peers. “We really want people to come, not just to swap clothes, but it’s a great opportunity for people to network and get to know each other,” she says.

The clothing exchange will take place on Jan. 13 from 12 to 4 p.m. at the UCU.