A Free Store for Trans and Nonbinary Students at University of Lynchburg

A Free Store for Trans and Nonbinary Students at University of Lynchburg

How Dell Thrift and Pantry helps students express their identity and find community

The University of Lynchburg in Virginia has launched a free store and food pantry for its students, faculty and staff, with a special focus on transgender and nonbinary individuals. The store, called Dell Thrift and Pantry, offers clothing, nonperishable food and supplies, including chest binders, which are compression garments for transmasculine people. The store is open 24/7 and is located in Hundley Hall, a dormitory on campus.

The store was created by the Center for Community Engagement, in collaboration with the Lynchburg Environmental Sustainability Society and the Bonner Leader Program, which are student organizations that promote social and environmental justice. The store received $1,600 in startup funds from the university’s Innovation Collaborative, which solicits ideas to benefit the campus community.

The inspiration behind the store

Cory Schutter, the coordinator for the Center for Community Engagement, said that the idea for the store came from listening to the needs and challenges of transgender and nonbinary students on campus. He said that some of them felt uncomfortable shopping in regular stores, or could not afford clothing that matched their identity. He also said that some of them needed binders, which can be expensive and hard to find.

A Free Store for Trans and Nonbinary Students at University of Lynchburg

Schutter said that he decided to organize a pop-up event where people could donate and receive clothing for free. The event was a huge success, and he realized that there was a demand for a permanent space. He found a suitable location in Studio West 117, a facility that was designed for the LGBTQ+ community. He then recruited volunteers from various student groups to help run the store.

The impact of the store on the campus

Since its opening in September 2020, the store has received positive feedback and support from the campus community. Schutter said that the store has served more than 200 people, and has received more than 1,000 donations of clothing and food. He said that the store has also become a place for socializing and networking, as well as a source of education and awareness.

Maxc Santana, a senior student and a regular volunteer at the store, said that the store has helped him and other transgender and nonbinary students feel more comfortable and confident in their appearance. He said that the store has also helped him make new friends and connections, and has given him a sense of purpose and belonging.

“I think it’s amazing that we have this space on campus, because it shows that the university cares about us and our needs,” Santana said. “It also shows that we are not alone, and that we have a community that supports us and loves us.”

The future plans for the store

Schutter said that he hopes to expand the store and its services in the future. He said that he wants to add more items, such as toiletries, hygiene products, makeup and accessories. He also said that he wants to partner with other organizations and resources on campus, such as the counseling center, the health center and the LGBTQ+ student group. He said that he wants to make the store a one-stop shop for transgender and nonbinary students, where they can find everything they need to thrive and succeed.

Schutter said that he also hopes that the store will inspire other colleges and universities to create similar spaces for their transgender and nonbinary students. He said that he believes that such spaces are essential for fostering inclusion, diversity and equity on campus.

“I think that this store is a model for what higher education should be doing for their students, especially for their marginalized students,” Schutter said. “I think that this store is a way of showing that we value them, that we respect them, and that we want them to be happy and healthy.”

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