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A Labour of Love

May 5, 2022

Thrift shop donation continues to enhance the birthing experience at HSC

Ashley Alonius

Ashley Alonius, Clinical Resource Nurse in Neonatal ICU at HSC Women’s Hospital, stands in the newly enhanced gynecological operating room.

Imagine if you or your loved one was in labour, received a caesarean section, and met the newborn only to find that it was struggling to breathe and had to be whisked away for treatment in a different room. Many women have endured this exact scenario. Thanks to a generous donation of $150,000 in 2020 from the Just Like New To You Thrift Shop—a store run entirely by volunteers, including a group of retired HSC Winnipeg nurses—mother and baby can stay in the same room following the birth as the gift allowed one of the gynecological operating rooms to be converted into a dual-use space that could accommodate obstetric surgeries as well.

Operational since December 2021, this room is outfitted with a headwall that has oxygen to help the baby “pink up” and suction to clear fluid from the newborn’s airway.

“It’s much better for the family to keep the moms and babies together,” explains Ashley Alonius, clinical resource nurse in the neonatal ICU at HSC Women’s Hospital. If we didn’t have the newly funded equipment, we would have to take the baby to a different room. Now we have quicker access to what the newborn needs, and we can keep them together. It is so much better for the family and for patient care—now the mom can see firsthand how their baby is progressing and improving.”

Just Like New To You Thrift Shop is located at 635 Portage Avenue.

Not far from HSC Women’s Hospital is the well-loved Just Like New To You Thrift Shop whose devoted customers helped to support the creation of the dual-use space. While small in size, the store—tucked away near the corner of Portage Avenue and Sherbrook Street—has a whole lot of heart. A neighbourhood staple since 2005, the store has raised over $1 million for Health Sciences Centre since it opened its doors nearly 17 years ago.

“It really is a community hub,” says Elaine Latter, retired nurse and former HSC volunteer. “Lots of people from the area like to drop in for a browse and a visit.”

Volunteers of the Just Like New to You thrift store, Elaine Latter, Carol Cribbs, Marg Turnbull, and Christel Meermann

Staffed predominantly by volunteers, including Elaine Latter, the Just Like New To You Thrift Shop has been a staple in downtown Winnipeg, and an enormous support to HSC, since 2005. (L-R: Elaine Latter, Carol Cribbs, Marg Turnbull, and Christel Meermann.)

This customer loyalty has helped more than just the store—with every dollar raised going straight to Health Sciences Centre, this small but mighty group of volunteers has made an immense difference in the lives of patients and the staff who care for them. Latter, who had volunteered at the hospital for more than 34 years, explains the store’s decision to donate towards a project for HSC Women’s Hospital.

“When the new Women’s Hospital was being built, we decided that we wanted the next project we raised money for to really be something that would stand the test of time,” Latter says. “We went to the HSC Foundation and explained our goal of wanting to contribute towards something in the Women’s Hospital. We were so excited when they suggested we raise money to enhance an operating room—we hope this donation makes a difference in the birthing experience of mothers for many years to come.”

Caregivers through and through, the vital gift will have an impact on the lives of many Manitobans. HSC has become the go-to place for treatment in the province and the number of patients is growing. At present the new Women’s Hospital has three gynecology operating rooms and four obstetrics operating rooms. Over the past few years, obstetrical volumes have continued to be on the rise.

“A sincere thank-you to the Just Like New To You Thrift Shop volunteers from the NICU, the newborn response team, the labour floor team, and every parent who has had to use this operating room for their infant in need,” says Alonius.


This Mother’s Day, the HSC Foundation thanks the dedicated volunteers at the Just Like New To You Thrift Shop for their generous donation to HSC Women’s Hospital and their tremendous dedication to advancing patient care in Manitoba. Help HSC further support the health of moms with a gift to the HSC Foundation. To make your gift, please click here, call 204-515-5612 or 1-800-679-8493 (toll-free).

By Heather Milne