A material difference: Businesses pitch in to support Ottawa Clothing Drive

clothing drive
From left, Craft&Crew CEO Dave Hale, New Purveyors' Matt Richling and his colleague Lauren Lozier, marketing specialist for the real estate team, and Trexity CEO Alok Ahuja aim to collect 100,000 items of clothing during this weekend's Ottawa Clothing Drive happening at TD Place at Lansdowne. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Not only is the Ottawa Clothing Drive back, but it’s recruited a couple of ambitious goal-setting entrepreneurs intent on collecting 100,000 gently used items, making it quite possibly the largest clothing drive in the history of Ottawa.

This year’s event has plans to fill the TD Place Arena with clothing of all shapes and styles this weekend, along with volunteers tasked with the job of culling through donations to see which specifically requested used items deserve a second go-around. 

The clothing drive was founded more than 10 years ago by Matt Richling, an Ottawa-based real estate agent with New Purveyors, part of RE/MAX Hallmark Realty Group.  

“It all starts from a place of, ‘How can we give back in a really meaningful way?’,” Richling explained. “It’s great because you see the massive amounts of clothes and you know that we’re going to be able to give those to people who need them. They’re a tangible donation.”

In his inaugural year, Richling collected what he described as “a Smart car-sized pile” of garments. Next, he partnered with the Marriott hotel to fill a hotel room with donations. Now, he’s got access to the hockey arena at Lansdowne. It’s being donated by Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group for the sorting efforts, which will feature a music-loving DJ to keep the mood fun and lively. 

Also behind the initiative this year are Ottawa-based digital design agency Craft & Crew and same-day, on-demand local delivery technology company Trexity, which has just announced that it’s raised $5 million in a seed round led by TELUS Ventures.

Community and business leaders, along with social media influencers, have been helping to raise awareness. 2021 Forty Under 40 Award recipient Dr. Samuel Hetz, owner of and physician at cosmetic medicine clinic Concept Medical, is among the supporters. 

Hopewell Public School in Old Ottawa South is showing its support through its own clothing drive, inspired by class discussions around the topic of textile recycling and reducing waste.

Beneficiaries include: The Caldwell Centre, Dress for Success Ottawa, The Snowsuit Fund, Fairy Godmother, Restoring Hope Ministries, Ottawa Innercity Ministries, Footwear4Kids Project and Thrive Select Thrift.

Dave Hale, partner and co-founder of Craft & Crew, knows it was hard for the public to provide hands-on help to charities over the last two years. 

“We spent the pandemic in a kind of hibernation mode. Now it’s time to come back out. Even as we work in a remote-work model, it’s still important to remain connected to your community.”

For Trexity CEO and co-founder Alok Ahuja, there was no hesitation in helping Richling. “When he approached and said, ‘Alok, this is what I want to do,’ I said, ‘I don’t care what it is, I’m in’,” said Ahuja.

Starting Friday, Trexity will be collecting clothing donations by hitting hundreds of pickup points. “As much as we want to help, we also don’t want to drive all over town and destroy our carbon footprint,” said Ahuja of their plans to bundle pickups based on geographically dense regions within the city.

Last week, Trexity was delivering dozens of boxed Thyme & Again dinners to supporters of the Children’s Aid Foundation of Ottawa’s Salut fundraising dinner. Earlier this spring, it was helping with hot meal deliveries for Shepherds of Good Hope’s Easter fundraiser.

“Every month, we’re constantly trying to help the community wherever we can,” said Ahuja. “This was instilled in me at a very young age. Before my dad (Sham Ahuja) passed, he always said to me, ‘Just keep giving back. Whatever you do, son, just keep giving back’.”

Ahuja sees it as his responsibility to “pay it forward” to the city, where his parents moved from New Delhi, India some 65 years ago, working hard to make sure their three kids got a good education. Ahuja is a graduate of the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University.

“I always used to make fun of my parents and say, ‘Of all the cities in the world you could have gone to, you picked Ottawa’.”

The father of two young children has since changed his tune. “Now that I’m raising my kids here, my mom says, ‘Are you still complaining?’ I’m like, ‘No’. Greatest city in the world. Greatest city in the world.”

For more information about the clothing drive, how to donate items or to volunteer this weekend, go to www.ottawaclothingdrive.com.