Gingko House, a social enterprise that advocates senior employment and supports local communities in Hong Kong, has launched the ‘Share Love’ store to help those in need during the winter. We took a moment to chat with Kenneth Choi, director of business development at Gingko House and executive director of registered charity Everbright Concern Action Limited (ECA), to find out more about the store and how we can pitch in too.
What is the store all about?
The ‘Share Love’ store gives away donated goods to those in need, free of charge. It is orchestrated by us but powered by you.
The venue was donated to us by a generous landlord, Lofter Group (樂風集團), who answered our call when we sent out a message on our Facebook page, and the goods are kindly donated by our supporters. Run mainly by volunteers, the shop serves individuals in need within our community. The aim is not only to give away these things, but we want to share the warm feeling of love with everyone involved.
What are you trying to achieve?
The ‘Share Love’ store works towards a number of things:
- We want to encourage recycling by redistributing gently-used goods
- We want to promote the importance of volunteer work
- We want to employ and empower those in need to help others in need (some staff members are also users of our free meal program)
- We also want to give everyone in the community a sense of holiday spirit
What can people donate?
- Adult-sized clothes: Warm clothes including coats, jackets, jumpers, trousers, thermal wear, gloves, scarves, and hats
- Small household appliances: Blenders, rice cookers, kettles, irons, and grills
- Smartphones: As of December 9, Hong Kong government regulations require the use of the LeaveHomeSafe app which is not something that everyone has access to. We have been accepting smartphones so that we can distribute and educate those in need, especially the elderly, on how to use a smartphone which can help improve their day-to-day life.
There is a shopping experience element at the store. What is that?
The individuals that come to the shop are mostly single-dwelling senior citizens, homeless or ethnic minorities, just to name a few. We’ve outfitted the shop with two mirrors so that users can check out how the clothes fit on them. For hygiene reasons, we don’t have a changing room, but we have measuring tapes so users can find the right fit for them. There is a cashier area where our volunteers help users bag up their clothes, which also gives them the feeling of going into a store for some holiday shopping. We believe this is important because we want these individuals to feel dignified, even if they are getting something for free. We understand it takes a great amount of courage to accept help.
This is the second year you’re running this event for donated clothes/items. How did it go last year?
Near the end of December 2020, I saw some of our free meal program users come in extremely underdressed for the weather. I was wearing a jacket indoors because it was so cold that day and I could only imagine how they must have felt in just a t-shirt and shorts. A portion of our users eat outside at the park and I just wanted them to be warm while eating lunch. That evening I asked our Facebook followers to see if they had any warm clothes they would like to donate to us so we could distribute them alongside the meals.
Long story short, we ended up distributing over 50 tonnes of clothing and had to open a pop-up shop in Sau Kei Wan to keep up with the demand. We organised volunteer events and went into low-income areas to give these clothes away.
You’re also distributing free rice boxes too. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
The free rice box program is a pay-it-forward service in which our supporters can buy a rice box from us. We then make fresh rice boxes and distribute these meals to those in need at our restaurants.
Last year, during times when Covid-19 hit Hong Kong the hardest, our charity restaurant Viet Street ramped up the free meal distribution program to distribute over 380 more meals than the regular number of free meals given out daily. As we saw our user base increase, we also saw more marginalised groups come and use our service. Now, we’re giving out over 1,100 free meals to those in need every day.
What can we do to help?
- You can buy meals at love.org.hk
- You can volunteer to help at love.org.hk/volunteer
- You can also donate working smartphones that you don’t use anymore to be given to those who need it
Clothing donations have temporarily been halted due to the overwhelming amount we have already received. Please check the Gingko House Facebook page for more updates.
The ‘Share Love’ store is located at 11 Nanking Street, G/F, Jordan and will run until at least mid-January.