Kerrisdale family helps less fortunate with clothes swap

When former event planner Ruthie Shugarman decided to change careers four years ago and become a realtor, she naturally threw an event to announce the news to friends and potential clients. She came up with the idea of turning the occasion into a clothing swap at her Kerrisdale home where women could exchange designer clothes they no longer wore and whatever was left over would be donated to charities.

The night was so successful, the married mother of two decided to hold more of them. The evenings, scheduled in the spring and fall, have since become so popular they get circled on women's calendars months in advance.

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"It has since attracted just this crazy cult following," she said. "This year I have 100 people coming already. It looks like the Hadassah Bazaar in the living room right now but it is always lots of fun and worth the effort. I rented a bunch of clothing racks and it looks like a store when you come in."

Shugarman's invite-only seasonal swap takes place Dec. 5 and, proving the adage that charity begins at home, her 11-year-old daughter Talia is getting into the family tradition and throwing a debut clothing swap of her own for fashion-conscious teens and tweens the following night.

"Talia has always come with me to drop off the clothes and sees how much it is appreciated and it is always a special thing to give back," said her mother. "This is kind of a trial on Thursday, and if it really works the idea is to maybe rent out the gym at her elementary school and grow it big. It would be great if tons of kids started recycling their clothes that way."

Talia says she chose the project as part of her Bat Mitzvah, the Jewish faith's coming-of-age ceremony for girls.

"It is not just some random thing I am doing, it is my tikkun olam [social project] where you have to help your community in some way," said Talia. "I've chosen to do the clothes swap because, instead of going to a food bank or something, I thought this was more original and I love carrying things on that my mom loves."

Shugarman stressed that while many well-heeled women walk away with swanky new items for their personal wardrobes, plenty is left over for charities, which include YWCA Crabtree Corner in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Covenant House and Beth Israel Coat Drive.

"After every swap, I literally have 20 to 30 giant garbage bags that I donate to charity."

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