Calgary refugee’s 17th Ave Thrift shop helps animal rescue groups across Alberta

Step into Sue Ghebari’s thrift shop in southwest Calgary and it probably won’t be too long before you get a warm welcome from the store’s four-legged greeter.

“Bella’s a rescue [dog],” Ghebari said. “She was neglected [and] she came with a lot of anxiety.”

Bella’s made great progress since being adopted and now Ghebari wants to help other animals recover from tough situations.

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She opened her shop, 17th Ave Thrift, to raise money for local animal rescue organizations. In the year the shop has been open, Ghebari has donated more than $4500 to several groups.

“We try and support the lesser-known rescues out there that are struggling a little more than the larger ones,” Ghebari said.

The organizations she has supported include A.A.R.C.S, MEOW Foundation, ARF – Animal Rescue Foundation, Saving Grace Animal Sanctuary, Robin’s Refuge Farm Sanctuary, The Alice Sanctuary, Second Chance Animal Rescue Society (SCARS), and Pawsitive Match Rescue.

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Ghebari is no stranger to struggles herself, and the support she’s found since coming to Calgary is a big part of her motivation for opening her thrift shop.

“We came as refugees from Lebanon in 1974, my family and I — Canada saved us from a life of poverty and war,” Ghebari said.

“People’s generosity has just been incredible, so this is why I would like to turn around and give back.”

Ghebari has supported several community charity efforts during decades of operating successful local grocery businesses.

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She decided to focus on helping animals because they hold a special place in her heart.

“I have rescued animals,” Ghebari said. “And I know that there’s a lot more out there that are struggling and could use the help.”

She’s grateful for the support she’s getting from people who donate items to sell in her shop.

“We have regulars that come in all the time,” Ghebari said. “They bring in just the most incredible things.”

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Kaitlyn Aubichom is one of those regulars, arriving at the store on her latest visit with a box of winter clothing.

“I think it’s awesome that you support the animal shelters,” Aubichom told Ghebari.

“You’re the only place that I bring my stuff now.”

“That means a lot to us — thank you so much,” Ghebari replied. “Bella appreciates it and [so do] all the rescue animals out there.”

Ghebari hopes she can help many other animals get the second chance that Bella has enjoyed.

“She feels safe and [knows] there are people that will take care of her rather than harm her,”Ghebari said. “She’s our little sweetheart, she really is.”