Ten years ago when Pauline Trahan was asked to help manage a clothing closet for patients in need at Hamilton General Hospital (HGH), she jumped at the chance. She had been volunteering at the hospital for 13 years and was ready for a new challenge. Since then, she has been the sole volunteer devoted to organizing the closet that serves more than 400 patients each year.
“It’s my baby,” Trahan says. “There are so many people who need this clothing. I don’t meet them, but I know the need is there and that has kept me going all this time.”
When ‘Clothes City’ began a decade ago, it was merely a collection of clothing in the Emergency Department’s social work office. Since then it has relocated three times and now occupies a mid-sized storage room down one of the hospital’s few quiet hallways. Its shelves are stacked floor to ceiling with various sizes and styles, ready to clothe a patient in need. Sometimes patients need a change of clothes because theirs were damaged in an accident, or had to be cut off for an emergency procedure. Other people arrive at the hospital wearing the only clothing they own. Clothes City provides them comfort and dignity. And it couldn’t operate without Trahan.
“I know the need is there and that has kept me going all this time.”
“She has been with us from the beginning, and we’re so grateful,” says HGH volunteer resources coordinator, Nancy Hayes. “This is such an important service that we offer to patients and it wouldn’t be possible without a dedicated volunteer like Pauline.”
Trahan organizes the donations that come to Clothes City through social worker, Fraser Hall. Clean, suitable items are catalogued and sorted so they can be doled out as needed. For many patients, receiving a change of clothes means a more comfortable stay at the hospital, or a dignified discharge home. Knowing that makes Trahan proud of her contributions as a volunteer.
“When I meet with Fraser, and hear how the clothes have helped a patient, and get a big thank you, it makes me feel wonderful. They appreciate it so much.”