The Knights of Columbus Coats for Kids campaign in in full swing to ensure those in need stay warm this winter.

Winter clothing programs gear up for a season unlike any other

By 
  • November 15, 2020

With the cold weather of a Canadian winter right around the corner, organizations that collect winter clothes for distribution to the needy are stepping into high gear.

Winter coats in the best of times are often pricey for low-income families struggling to make ends meet. Programs like the Coats for Kids run by Knights of Columbus Ontario are working to make sure every child who needs a winter coat this year will have one.

In partnership with several school boards across the province, Coats for Kids has set a goal to raise $10,000 in winter coat donation packages. As teachers are able to identify needs in their classrooms, councils across the province can purchase new winter coats at a discount to be distributed to the children in need in their local communities.

Neil Bouvier, chairman of the Ontario Coats for Kids program, says while they have seen a steady annual increase in previous years, this year of pandemic has seen many Ontarians experience considerable financial challenges, and in turn a greater uptick in expressed need for children’s coats. 

“It seems to be like we’re shining a brighter light on the issue, so we’re seeing a bigger problem,” said Bouvier, who works directly with the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board along with others across the province. “When we started this program, a lot of the feedback that we got was, ‘I had no idea there was this kind of problem in our own backyard.’ ”

While the need for coats has increased, fundraising efforts through Knights’ councils have been significantly hampered due to COVID-19 restrictions. They hope that as word spreads about the need that more councils will step up to bridge the financial gap in order to reach more children than ever before.

“The schools are thankful for it and the children are thankful for it,” said Bouvier. “If there’s a need and we’re in a position to help, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re trying to be good Catholics and good Knights.”

The Bundle Up program run by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul took a dip in the spring due to the church closures that came during the busiest collection time of the year. Since the re-opening of churches, there’s been an increase in items received on the Bundle Up Sunday pickups which seems to have made up for any time that was lost.

“I guess people have had more time at home to do their tidying up and cleaning,” said Louise Coutu, executive director of the St. Vincent De Paul Society. “They feel very good if the items can go to a cause where they know it’s either going to be used by someone directly or that they can use the return for the goods.”

In operation for roughly 30 years, the Bundle Up program has been a conduit between people who want to give away their surplus clothing and those that are in need. On any given weekend the organization sends vehicles to six or seven different parishes across the GTA where parishioners are able to bring their goods to Mass and just put them right on the truck.

“It has kind of eliminated the old drop box idea where there’s a lot of contamination where items are left out the door and open to the elements,” said Coutu. “This way the goods come to us in better condition and it’s still convenient for the parishioner.”

The organization has become synonymous to serving those in need and while it accepts clothing donations year-round, the society understands the unique needs going into the long Canadian winter months and remains ready to receive and distribute items to meet the needs of those across the GTA.

A full listing of Bundle Up Sunday parish pickup dates can be found at svdptoronto.org.

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