In 2022, The Kindness Closet gave away approximately 450lbs of clothing directly to folks in need (150lbs were given away in 2021). Clothing has been distributed via our own “free interview clothing” and “free clothing day” programs, as well as passed onto other organizations through New Brunswick – in particular, New Brunswick Women’s Correctional Centre, Coverdale Centre for Women, and Fredericton Homeless Shelters.
Brunchy Justice is a book club that reads books related to the justice system with a focus on learning and reimagining what a just, caring, and compassionate society looks like for all of us, vulnerable community members included.
In 2022 Brunchy Justice met a handful of times to discuss what we were learning. Our 2022 reading list included:
Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis
Unreconciled: Family, Truth and Indigenous Resistance by Jesse Wente
Abortion to Abolition: Reproductive Health and Justice in Canada by Martha Paynter
Disarm, Defund, Dismantle: Police Abolition in Canada by by Shiri Pasternak (Editor), Kevin Walby (Editor), Abby Stadnyk (Editor)
What has been an informal gathering of people interested in learning about the justice system will begin to change face a bit in the new year as there is now a volunteer team that will begin to write blog posts and keep the Instagram page informative! If you are interested in joining this team, please do not hesitate to reach out! The commitment level depends completely on your availability.
Our first books of 2023 are as follows:
January – “Punching The Air” by Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salam
February – “Solidarity Beyond Bars: Unionizing Prison Labour” by Jordan House and Asaf Rashid
March – “Seven Fallen Feathers” by Tanya Talaga
April – “Coming Back to Jail: Women, Trauma, and Criminalization” by Elizabeth Comack
Over the course of the past 8 months, we have provided 70 full grocery bags to folks in need, valued at approximately $25 each. This does not include the innumerable amount of times that people came in and grabbed just a few items from the pantry that had been donated by community members. At times, clients also took only personal care items such as razors, Depends and period products. We were unable to properly track these pantry visits, but there were easily over 100 visits of this nature.
Unfortunately, given the hard financial times that many of us are facing right now, obtaining pantry donations from community via word of mouth and Instagram has proven difficult. The pantry has existed in the shop since the beginning as a test to see if there would be community buy in – always with the knowledge that having the pantry *in* the shop was a barrier. At one time I did have a meeting with City of Saint John to inquire about creating a pantry outside in the uptown area but that project did not come to fruition (however this will be happening in the city in 2023 as part of another community project). The pantry eventually morphed into the shop providing pre-made grocery bags because the pantry was often empty when people would come in looking for items. I saw a need and I wanted to make it better for at least a few people. Buying groceries is expensive though, and so are “more official” marketing channels, and as such a new organization with a lack of a food security mandate, I did not want to encroach on the amazing work done by local food banks. The work done through this pantry was important – but not the purpose of The Kindness Closet, and this is why, effectively immediately, the “take what you need, leave what you can” food pantry will no longer exist in the shop.
Employment and Education
This past summer The Kindness Closet hosted Lick the Spoon Soups, a 4 week program meant to build community and provide education about food security and transferable kitchen skills. While the turnout was not huge, the program did run a small, modified cohort and started to build important community connections!
The purpose of The Kindness Closet is to provide education and employment to those that have been impacted by the justice system and/or poverty. While Lick the Spoon Soups is on the back burner for now (I’d love it if it wasn’t gone forever so we shall see what the future brings), there is an exciting new program on the horizon. Details will be announced mid-December.