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Fred's Threads is open for business 0

By Ryan Paulsen, Daily Observer

Students at Fellowes High School were treated to a fashionable end to a school Eco Team assembly on waste reduction and the problems of mass consumption, when a few dozen students came together to strut their stuff on the catwalk, showing off some of the wares of the school's new second-hand clothing and jewelry shop, Fred's Threads.

The store, which opened in September, is housed in what used to be a tech department office, until construction students in various classes were let loose to renovate the space, turning it into a hip retail outlet right inside the school.

The whole project was made possible by a $7,200 Skills Canada Lowes grant that the school applied for last fall, and was awarded in the spring of 2012.

Although the store is run entirely by students, who sort through, clean and price donated clothes, shoes, jewelry and other fashionable accessories, teacher Heather Witt was instrumental in getting the ideas of the students off the ground, and inspiring them to get involved in the first place.

"She's always been behind getting students involved in these types of activities," says Fellowes principal Dean Zadow, "and this is one example of the types of things that go on in our school from a staff perspetive. Phenomenal work. The ideas are generated by the students, but the seed's planted somewhere, and Heather's played a big role in that."

For her part, Witt sees a practical benefit to the store's presence, apart from being a place where students can buy great clothes for very low prices, namely that the students who volunteer to staff the store during its hours at lunch time and after school are gaining valuable experience working a retail operation while simultaneously earning community service hours towards their diploma requirements.

While Witt is the lead teacher involved in the endeavour, but she's also had other help, particularly from colleagues Jen Schooley and Sandi Theilheimer, who saw a whole other set of benefits, not least pointing out how buying used clothing can have a massive impact on the environment by reducing manufacturing and waste.

"I think sometimes when you think about a used clothes store," says Schooley, "it might have some sort of stigma attached to it. We really wanted to make it diverse... and say that this is a store that everyone can feel happy going to, and putting that eco twist on it really helps."

As far as store student manager Molly Deruiter is concerned, though, the biggest draw for potential shoppers will be the rock-bottom pricing.

"Definitely the price," she says. "It's so affordable; there's nothing over ten dollars."

Whatever their reasons for shopping, they're doing it, and the store is starting to gain traction and make a name for itself.

In addition to providing good clothes at low prices, the store also helps to support bursaries for Fellowes students through its sales, and also will benefit the school's community partner, the local Boys and Girls Club.

Donations of good quality used clothes of all kinds are being accepted by the school to help stock the store's shelves. Anyone needing more information or looking to make a donation can simply contact the school for details.

Ryan Paulsen is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist.

ryan.paulsen@sunmedia.ca

Follow him on Twitter @PRyanPaulsen.

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