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Living Green Barrie

Environmental Action Barrie has existed for over 25 years to bring the people of Barrie and surrounding communities together to learn about environmental issues, and to change habits in favour of environmentally – friendlier practices. We currently have ongoing eco-projects and we are always looking for volunteers.


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A Prize to Encourage Energy Efficiency (Electricity) Among Barrie Residents


LivingGreen / Environmental Action Barrie is mounting a campaign to encourage Barrie residents to use less electricity.

One part of this campaign is a series of energy-saving tips, another part is advice on choosing energy-saving appliances.

To encourage participation, we are offering monthly prizes to households who record the largest percentage reduction in electricity consumption compared to the same billing period in the previous year.

The prize will be a $100 voucher for dinner at a Barrie restaurant. The prize will be awarded every month by Mayor Jeff Lehman at a City Council meeting, naming the winners and the restaurant to the public and to the television audience. Winners and sponsor restaurants will also be featured on our website,

The winners will be chosen by a team from LivingGreen/EAB based on PowerStream bills contestants submit. (The bills list average daily electricity consumption for the current billing period, and the  previous year, simplifying selection.)

For information on how to save electricity to win this prize visit our Eco-Library.

Off the Rack & Barrie Free Clothing Center

Off the Rack tree

“I just got back fromvisiting the Off the Rack; Barrie Free Clothing store at the corner of Toronto and Dunlop streets behind Meineke Motors.”

Off the Rack and Barrie Free Clothing

Karen Fox at Barrie Free Clothing

Karen Fox, managing director of Living Green, is one of the people beind Off the Rack; Barrie Free Clothing store.
What a cornucopia of goodness! Every month literally hundreds of people shop in this store, helping themselves to an item or two from the ‘ free room’, maybe splurging on an outfit from the $ 3 room or hitting on a ‘ find’ in the boutique and vintage clothing room. Karen Fox, local realtor, member of Be Green Barrie, member of Transition Barrie, enthusiast and advocate for people generally, picked up the reigns a few years ago when Valerie Shrivener left the single room she was offered at a local church.
The church needed the space and Valerie packed up the clothes and connected with Karen and her sister- in- law, Ruth Blaicher, and asked them to help find space. It was 2006. Today, Off the Rack is a thriving multi- room operation in the back of 110 Dunlop St. W., offeringmuchmore than clothing for people. Bargain hunters are thrilled when they score a name brand for $ 3. A woman today got an entire outfit for a wedding and paid less than $ 10, including shoes. As I was leaving, one of the store’smale customers was decking himself out in an attractive dress overcoat and he was thrilled. While Off The Rack is there to help three different types of clientele, it’s also there so the remarkably creative Elfreda can sit at one of the sewingmachines and repurpose clothes. She’s created remarkable short/ long skirts that are one- of- a- kind pieces of art. She teaches people how to create toques and vests from long sleeved sweaters, Community Secrets aprons from something else and all kinds of neat bags from blue jeans.

The store seems endless as you walk through tidy room after tidy room, painted by donated paint and Patrick Doyle, painter. A kitchen gives volunteer staff a place to eat lunch, havemeetings, run workshops and in its counter, sink and cupboards ( thanks Home Depot and plumber Dave Reynolds) and a fridge found at roadside and repainted.
This is a store dedicated to recycling of every kind and offering men’s, women’s, and children’s clothes, books, toys, shoes, belts, jewelry, bags, household items. . . well, it all just helps people in their lives. Operating from a respecting viewpoint, Karen says they’ve recently instituted a membership card so shoppers using the store can actually belong to the service. They can help themselves to a limited number of free items, plus they’ll get help from volunteers to complete an outfit when necessary. The vintage section and the boutique room offer bargain prices for superb items, many still with their original price tags. I visited with Karen as she opened one of the six or seven donation bags that had come in today. She lifted out shirts and sweaters; some are set aside for laundering, buttons, repairs; some are ironed, and some are put on hangers and hung in the appropriate room as soon as possible. Inventory is donated by the public and goes out the door to willing, grateful shoppers. Both Karen and Ruth continue with their real estate businesses, but certainly use the flexibility in their work schedules to donate lots of energy to Off The Rack needs. “Only a small portion of our customers are homeless. We get a lot of men living in boarding houses. So often I think about how close we all are to living like this. . . you lose your job, your marriage splits up, you start drinking, there’s nowhere to live, you can’t get a job. . . it’s a spiral,” she says with her gentle smile. While the free room helps a lot of people, it’s sales from the $ 3 room that pay the rent. If Karen has a little money left over at the end of the month she buys something for the store, a vacuum cleaner one month, and sizing circles another month. Signage was donated by the Sign and Display store. Karen’s most enthused about the current Vintage Collection brought in by a man whose wife had passed away.
“She must have worked at Eatons because a lot of the clothes have Eatons tags. Some are really cute dresses from the 50’s. They are definitely 50’s and 60’s clothes. I’ve priced them individually, bought an ad in The Examiner and people are coming in to shop,” she said. Thrift shoppers are very important to the store, and volunteers reach out to help customers from several agencies in Barrie. So, if the store has room after room of items what does it need? “We need new underwear, for both men and women, socks and leotards desperately, men’s and women’s coats. We need long sleeved shirts and sweaters, gloves, mitts, hats, scarves, boots, raincoats. And we always need volunteers,” says Karen.
“We have people who volunteer for companionship, people who are job hunting and need resume material, students doing service hours, retired people, and all our volunteers work at least half a day so we need 24 people to run the operation every week. We need teachers to teach classes in sewing, knitting, crochet, design.” The store is open 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. Monday through Saturday, and closed Sundays. The obvious question as Karen walked me through the store is why she spends so much energy there.
“I see a need. I know I can help with this. I’m a good organizer, see how to improve things. Everything for me is connected. It all matters.” Thanks, Karen. And thanks to all the volunteers whomake this happen.


Living Green adopted the Barrie Free Clothing Centre in 2009 and developed Nifty Thrifty to sell gently-used items as a way to fund the cost of maintaining the Barrie Free Clothing. BFCC gives away free clothing with no questions asked. In 2012 the Centre was renovated to develop a bright, positive and more functional atmosphere for its staff and customers. The sales area, formerly Nifty Thrifty, was redesigned to focus entirely on clothing and accessories and renamed Off the Rack. The renovations included an upgraded kitchen area, with increased cabinetry, sink, fridge and a new board table that make the room functional as a meeting place for NGOs, small groups and classes.

Perhaps the most exciting change was the development of a sewing area complete with several sewing machines, a cutting table and a full stock of materials and supplies to allow for a variety of activities from sewing to knitting to fashion design to repurposing of used clothing. The Centre now has the capacity to teach people a variety of fashion related skills, offer them the tools and supplies to make unique items and allow them to sell their creations on consignment in the store.

The centre is staffed entirely by volunteers. The atmosphere is always positive. In the first four months after reopening in July 2012, the Barrie Free Clothing Centre gave away free 5,000 items of clothing. The Off the Rack area has been growing and classes have started to form in the Reskilling Centre. Initial classes for an after-school youth club for preteens and early teens have started with

For 2013 the challenge will be to develop resilience in the Centre. A fundraising campaign kicked off in January with the hope of raising $18,000. The funds will ensure the continued success of the centre. The Centre requires a part-time manager to maintain the continuity of operations and activities.

Off the Rack is located at Toronto and Dunlop street in Downtown Barrie. It is a charity run by Living Green. You enter the parking lot off Toronto street behind Meineke Automotive and see the sign directly behind Meineke.


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