Double Take: Used clothing, new lives

Double Take isn’t just a second-hand store — it’s a place for second chances.

Double Take isn’t just a second-hand store — it’s a place for second chances.

Located at the junction of Toronto’s Regent Park and Cabbagetown neighbourhoods (310 Gerrard St. East), the store is a beacon of hope in the community providing jobs, affordable goods and a fresh start for people who often have nowhere left to go.

Operated by the Yonge Street Mission charity organization, Double Take employs and provides training for more than 20 community residents, many of them people who couldn’t have gotten a job anywhere else because of language, cultural or economic issues.

New staff members begin training as volunteers learning the ropes from current staff and seeing if they can handle a retail environment. Once they get hired, new employees continue to undergo training and make use of the Mission’s extensive resources, such as language courses, career counselling and life and social skills classes.

Double Take manager Kathy Webster says being able to work is a big step towards a real career for many people in the community.

“For most of them that come here it’s their first job in Canada. They feel like they’re part of something,” she said.

Webster herself started out as a volunteer at Double Take because she always admired what Yonge Street Mission was doing and wanted to help in the community. She says for the vast majority of volunteers and job-seekers who come in through the door, Double Take is an unprecedented opportunity to learn responsibility and valuable, marketable skills for the real world.

“This is a much more forgiving environment than a corporate job would be. We’re much more flexible and we really help people get to that point where they can hold down and find employment on their own,” Webster said.

Asma Khatoon, a permanent employee at the store who has worked as a supervisor for three years, tried working a factory job when she first came to Canada but lost it when she had to care for her sick daughter. She struggled to find work afterwards because her English skills were not up to par for many employers. Double Take and the Yonge Street Mission gave her a second chance, training her in English, customer service and pricing.

“My English wasn’t great but they hired me. It was a great start for me and the experience has been very good,” Khatoon said.

For another supervisor, Ranie (she asked that her real name not be used) working for Double Take has been more than a job, it has become a calling.

“I started from scratch and now I enjoy working for a charitable organization. At the end of the day, it’s not just about money — you know you are doing something important,” Raine said.

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