Cloverdale, send in your castoffs

Helena Lloyd with samples of medical uniforms. - Jennifer Lang photo
Helena Lloyd with samples of medical uniforms.
— image credit: Jennifer Lang photo

By Jennifer Lang

Are you a health care worker wanting to clear out your closet?

Businesswoman Helena Lloyd has a suggestion: bring them down to Mates Uniforms, a clothing supply store for people working in the health care industry.

Through its “HUGS” program, Mates Uniforms accepts gently worn medical uniforms from the public. “HUGS” stands for Healthcare Uniforms Giving Smiles. Items will be forwarded on to hospitals and clinics in countries of need, distributed by Canadian Food for Children.

If you have uniforms taking up space in your closet, bring them in – they’ll make a huge difference to the recipients – people working in hospitals and clinics in Central America, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Philippines, she says.

Canadian Food For Children is a non-denominational registered charity that works to alleviate suffering and starving children. It has a depot and warehouse in Langley, which is where Lloyd used to operate her business before making the move to Cloverdale in early March.

Lloyd’s involvement with HUGS dates back several years.

A seamstress who worked for Lloyd knew of a friend who was heading to the African country of Malawi to perform missionary work, and was planning to visit some hospitals there.

The seamstress started pulling leftovers off the sale rack, where discontinued items like XL lab coats and the like had been put on sale for just $5 each.

When the woman began pulling down item after item, Lloyd asked her why she wanted to buy so many.

When she heard the explanation, Lloyd refused to take any money for the items.

“Just take it,” Lloyd urged. “There’s no way you’re going to pay me $5 for this stuff,” Lloyd recalls.

“The only deal was that I wanted some pictures.” She now proudly displays those images in her store, along with a poster advertising the HUGS program.

Despite their humble surroundings, the recipients’ happiness is evident.

“Would you look at the conditions?” Lloyd asks, pointing out one image. “They’re working off, like, a picnic table.”

When a few other missionary groups came to her store in the following months looking for uniforms to buy for African healthcare workers, Lloyd says it became obvious she could use her business to help fill a need.

“Since the Canadian Food for Children organization were already sending  linens from the hotels and hospitals, we asked if we could tag along.”

And so HUGS was formed.

“We’ve had a great response to this program and plan on continuing with it here in Cloverdale.”

Mates Uniforms helps out in other ways, too.

Every other year, Trinity Western’s second-year nursing students go to Africa, and spend a week in a village, leaving new scrubs and uniforms behind.

One of the instructors told her it’s a real eye-opener to experience life in the developing world. “You turn a tap at home, you just expect water to come out,” she notes. “It’s a real awakening to them to realize they’re lucky to have what they have.”

Monthly, Mates Uniforms also emails and faxes specials to customers reminding people to donate and, a couple of times a year, offer customers discounts if they bring in a donation for the cause.

Mates Uniforms is located at 5696A 176 Street.

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