THUNDER BAY - With winter just around the corner everyone is preparing to bundle up and some of the most vulnerable members of the community rely on the generosity of others to stay warm on those cold winter days.
The Spread the Warmth Winter Coat Drive opened on Monday and due to COVID-19 things will be a little different this year.
“The big difference is the safety aspect,” said Jon Wynn, owner of Gear Up for Outdoors. “Last year people would just drop them in a bag and come to the store, but this year, we want to make sure we really push the fact that they must be cleaned and put in a clear plastic bag.”
Coat drop-offs will be contactless and bins will be set up outside Gear Up for Outdoors, with additional locations possibly being added later on.
The coats will then be picked up by Shelter House to be distributed to clients.
“We were really concerned we weren’t even going to be able to do it this year with new regulations and COVID,” said Thunder Bay Shelter House executive director, Michelle Jordan. “But we figured out a way to do it safely and I’m hoping we continue to get the same support. I imagine it probably will be down a little bit this year, but whatever we do get will be helpful for the people in the community.”
Gear Up for Outdoors, Thunder Bay Shelter House, Grace Place, and Precious Bundles have been partnering on the winter coat drive for the past 14 years.
Last year more than 1,000 coats were collected and distributed to clients of Shelter House, Grace Place, and the Precious Bundles Children’s Clothing Assistance Program.
“It just keeps getting more and more support as it goes along and more people know about it and it’s just a continual thing that people expect every year. It’s a good way to give and it works for everybody,” Jordan said. “There are more than 500 people homeless in the community so it’s important to get those coats to people who need them.”
“It is huge this year, especially with COVID,” Wynn added. “There are a lot more clients that are gong to be needing jackets. The idea of getting these jackets to them is really important and our staff thought a lot how we could do it safely, which is why we came up with the concept of contactless.”
Organizers are stressing that donated coats must be clean and in a clear plastic bag with the size and gender clearly labeled.
The Spread the Warmth Winter Coat Drive will run from Oct. 5 to Dec. 21. All those who donate will be entered into a draw for one of five $100 gift cards donated by the Keg Steakhouse and Bar.