Cleaning up clothes raided from the donations bins in front of Hawkesbury’s secondhand store on Cartier Boulevard has become routine for Marcelle Ménard.
She says whenever volunteers open the store, they’re faced with a mess of donated clothes and shredded plastic bags strewn across the parking lot.
“Sometimes we can bring in the clothes and shake them off,” says Ménard. “But if they’re stuck in ice in the winter, there’s nothing we can do. Or if they’re wet, they can start to smell and we throw them into the garbage.”
Theft, unfortunately, is nothing new to Ménard who’s been at the store since 2005 and director since 2009 after taking it over from her sister. In 2012, she bought three “cheap” security cameras, but she says people didn’t care and one was vandalized.
She says things have gotten worse lately and that’s prompted her to reinvest in better security cameras. In late May, she bought nearly $2,000 worth of equipment and set up four high quality security cameras. Since then, she says she has video of people raiding the bins and stealing donated items weekly.
Some people have told her to just lock the bins in the evenings, but Ménard says that wouldn’t help.
“Lots of people drop things off in the evenings and nights,” she says. “If the bins are locked then they’d have to leave things outside and the same thing will happen. People will go through the bags outside and we may end up with a worse mess.”
During the interview, Ménard pulled up a video of a man pulling into the parking lot and start loading boxes into his van. It was a sunny Sunday at 7 p.m.
Getting police involved
In late July, Ménard said enough was enough and she contacted the police.
On Tuesday, August 1, the OPP sent out a press release that said it will be increasing patrols in the area.
It also gave Ménard a list of other things La Friperie could do to try and minimize the thefts.
The next step, says Ménard, is to invest in better lighting along the outside of the store. After a suggestion from police, she’s also started building a poster with security camera pictures to help identify some of the perpetrators.
The investments have put a strain—both in terms of money and energy—on the store, which is operated as a not-for-profit.
But her resilient team of volunteers has made it a little easier to weather the hardships.
“We’re here to try and help,” says Ménard. “I never thought I’d see this. It’s very disappointing.”
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