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Giving Back to the Community

Chantelle Harder, the owner of two Winmark brand stores – Once Upon A Child® and Plato’s Closet® – in Winnipeg, Manitoba and co-owner of two Plato’s Closet stores in Calgary, Alberta has experienced success beyond her bottom line by giving back to her home community of Winnipeg without seeking anything in return.

Chantelle Harder, is the owner of Once Upon A Child and Plato's Closet stores in Winnipeg, Manitoba. A mother of four children between the ages of 9-14, she always wanted to give back to her community. She has been able to do that since she opened her Once Upon A Child store in 2011 after a career in teaching and owning/running an online pharmacy. “I wanted to find ways that I could give back where we give, but there’s nothing returned to us in exchange,” Chantelle said. “There’s no recognition, there’s nothing tangible that we’re getting in return.”

Here are the ways she helps:

Teddy Bears’ Picnic Contributes to the Health of Children

The annual Teddy Bears’ Picnic, presented by the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, helps raise awareness and funds for the Children’s Hospital, which is dedicated to the healthcare of Winnipeg’s youngest population. The picnic is a fun and free educational experience for families with a different activity in each of the 50 tents that occupy Assiniboine Park for a day in late May. It was easy for Chantelle to see that her Once Upon A Child store, which provides parents a retail location to buy and sell gently used children’s clothes, shoes, toys and baby gear, would be a natural fit as a sponsor for the event. Organizers felt the same way, and she began sponsoring and volunteering at the face-painting tent, called Paw Prints, in 2012. “Because everything goes toward the Children’s Hospital Foundation,” she said, “it’s a great opportunity to connect with families and do something good for a local charity.”

Merchandise Marked Down to Zero.

Chantelle also donates clothes, shoes, accessories and gear to a variety of charitable organizations and families in need, including:

  • First Nations community in Manitoba – Chantelle said they’re in dire need of clothing, footwear and outerwear. The donated goods are delivered to a community center, where families pick out what they need and take it home for free. “There’s nothing that comes back to us except for that feeling of doing something wonderful for a community in need here in Manitoba,” she said.
  • Survivors of domestic abuse – They are typically children who’ve had to flee their homes. Social agencies now contact Chantelle when there’s a family in need, and she assembles a wardrobe for each victim depending on their age and size.
  • Families who’ve lost their home to fire – Chantelle relies on agencies and the word of the survivors’ friends, family and neighbors to let her know what’s needed. The family can then visit her stores to take what they need, free of charge.
  • Refugee families – Typically, they’re from warmer countries and not prepared for the cold Manitoba winters, when the temperature many days is below 0 degrees. The donated sweaters, mittens, hats, boots and outerwear can be life-saving. “They can have a start in Canada where they’ll be warm and feel a little bit more at home,” Chantelle said.

Being a Good Neighbor Can Boost Business Although she does it all without seeking acknowledgment or accolades, Chantelle is rewarded for helping those in need in her community. For example, she has witnessed her employees, most of whom are between the ages of 16-25, learn the value of charity. She wants them to know that owning a business is not just about making money.

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